Plenty of life after 'death'

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Tuesday, July 6, 2010
— Gaylord Reeves of Janesville once offered an interesting tidbit to the Badger State Games public relations people.

The entry asked if there was anything interesting that I could add about myself, and a I wrote, I died, Reeves said.

When Reeves competed in the shot put and discus, cameras from three Madison television stations were trained on the man who died.

Since his death, Reeves has become a Masters decathlete and developed a fitness program for older adults at Mercy Acceleration. Last month, the 77-year-old Reeves won the bronze medal at the Masters National Decathlon competition in Joplin, Mo.

I dont think it changed me, Reeves said of his harrowing episode in 2000. I have been a Christian since I was 25, and I was ready to die. It did not have a hand in anything.

In almost 10 years since his death, Reeves has gone from weighing 250 pounds, suffering from edema and poor circulation, to a competitive 190-pound Masters athlete.

Going from death to being a top competitor in the Masters decathlete was a long journey.

On Dec. 21, 2000, the day before his death, the 68-year-old Reeves shoveled snow. The next day Reeves thought he felt good enough for a workout at the Janesville Athletic Club, where he was an infrequent visitor.

I was on a six-week spiritual fast, and I had lost 30 pounds, said Reeves, who estimated he weighed 250 pounds. We had a snowstorm on the weekend. I shoveled the walk and driveway and I felt good. I decided to start working out again.

Reeves began jogging and suffered a heart attack and stopped breathing.

I jogged one side of the running track, and I went down, Reeves said. I was told I was without oxygen for a least six minutes, which means I should have been brain dead.

Janesville EMTs shocked Reeves back to life on the track, but he lapsed into a coma. Reeves had to be shocked again en route to Mercy Hospital.

My wife said I was in a coma for about six hours, Reeves said. I knew nothing.

Reeves was moved to a Madison hospital, where doctors inserted a stint and a pacemaker. Six days later, Reeves was on his feet.

I walked into church, and Pastor (Jeff) Williams asked me, What are you doing here?

Reeves spent two years recuperating.

I was feeling good, but I was logy and had edema, Reeves said. I just wasnt up to par.

Reeves said with the help of an over-the-counter antioxidant, OPC, his overall health improved dramatically.

As he became more robust, his training became more aggressive.

Id been doing shot put and discus, the strength events, said Reeves, who was athletically active in his early 60s. I decided I wanted to do sprints, but I was always slow.

In his first effort in the 100 dash, a 235-pound Reeves won in 16-plus seconds.

I told my wife thats the greatest feeling in the world, Reeves said. The shot put, they tell you your finish a half-hour after you compete. In the sprint you get that instant gratification.

Competing in individual events put Reeves in a conundrum.

I started thinking, Im 190 (pounds) and Im running against 140-pounders. In the sprints, thats not good. In the shot, Im competing against 300-pounders, and thats not good, Reeves said. I said, Im going for the decathlon.

Four years after his heart attack, at 72, Reeves entered his first decathlon, a grueling 10-event marathon. In the last five years, Reeves has won 80 medals in track and field.

Reeves bronze medal at nationals is just a start. He believes he can win a gold medal within the next year or two.

Thats coming from a man whose lone goal was to stay alive.

Last updated: 2:26 pm Thursday, December 13, 2012

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