Skip to Content

Published on August 09, 2019

“I Won the Health Lottery With My Care”

Triathlon athlete has heart attack, then goes on vacation four days later.


“I’m so thankful,” says Bruce Horn of his surreal experience. Talking from an airport in Dallas, Texas, Horn recalls the heart attack he had only four days earlier in Burlington.

Maggie Horn, Bruce Horn Before Event

Maggie & Bruce 

You wouldn’t think Horn and heart attack would go together. It was a surprise to him too. He doesn’t have relatives who had heart disease and he doesn’t smoke or have other risk factors usually associated with cardiac concerns. In fact, the 66-year-old participates in triathlons of varying distances and looks the part.

His love of the sport brought him to Burlington, North Carolina, to the Buckner Mission Man Triathlon. The Oklahoma resident was competing alongside daughter Maggie who lives in Durham. It would also be a nice tune-up for a half Ironman in Wilmington that they plan to complete in this October.

The first leg on the cool Saturday morning was a 750-meter swim in Lake Cammack. But shortly after hitting the water, Horn was struggling. Lifeguard Courtney Carter-Graves, one of the three in the lake, watched as Horn made his final turn, started floating on his back and then went under. She got to him in seconds, placing a floatation belt under Horn to keep him above water. A team on a rescue boat pulled him in and immediately began CPR.

Horn with Jim Meeks, EMS, who provided CPR

Horn & Jim Meeks, of 
Alamance EMS, who
provided CPR

“I am talking today because they were prepared,” says Horn of the water rescue. “The race organizers had the foresight to have highly trained lifesaving personnel and emergency equipment immediately available. That saved my life.”

Minutes later, Horn was in an ambulance heading to Alamance Regional Medical Center. When he arrived, a team of specialists was waiting in what is called the cath lab. They are part of a program that recently brought around-the-clock heart attack care to Alamance Regional. “Several of our cardiologists stay in a local hotel in Burlington while on call to be close to the hospital for emergency cases,” says Christopher McAlhany, MD, who treated Horn. “Our goal is to have the blocked artery open as fast as possible.” The longer the blood flow is restricted, the more heart muscle dies. That reduces the chances for a full recovery and a return to normal life.

Less than an hour after Horn arrived, blood was flowing normally through his heart. “I’ve got nothing but accolades,” says Horn. “The team was very nice, very caring and very efficient.”

Horn leaving hospital with daughter Maggie

Bruce & Maggie leaving
Alamance Regional

McAlhany says it is critical for heart patients to have care close by instead of having to be taken out of the county for care. “The quick action of the emergency medical responders at the lake and the efficient work of our cath lab were key to Bruce’s survival and quick recovery.”

None of this was lost on Horn starting his vacation from the airport four days later. “It is kind of unreal, sitting here [today] with two grandkids. But it’s pretty nice. I won the health lottery with my care there.”

The team of medical professionals at Alamance Regional has treated 123 after-hours heart attacks since expanding services 24/7 in January 2018.

On Facebook