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Lucky to be alive; survives the 'widowmaker'

Patrick Scott is back to playing softball after suffering a "Widowmaker" heart attack during last year's Water Carnival Tournament. Scott returned to play in the Water Carnival Softball Tournament this weekend for Chub's Pub/Hot Tubs of Fun. (Brian Wierima/Record)

During last year's Water Carnival Men's Softball Tournament, Patrick Scott was doing what he loved -- playing softball.

But 34-year-old Scott wasn't ready to die doing what he loved to do, yet.

Scott suffered one of the deadliest heart attacks a person could have on that sunny afternoon at Snappy Park -- otherwise known as the "Widowmaker".

It's a condition which doesn't discriminate by age and one that only 10 percent of victims survive.

Fortunately, this wasn't Scott's last softball tournament, after a host of lucky occurrences -- and people -- fell into place to save his life after he collapsed in the bench area after his Chub's Pub/Tubs of Fun lost in the second game of the day.

"Pat just had wonderful friends that day," said Doug Scott, Pat's father. "A lot of people had thought Pat had died that day."

From playing softball to fighting for his life

The Water Carnival Men's Softball Tournament at Snappy Park in Detroit Lakes has been the Chub's Pub/Tubs of Fun team's destination for the last nine years.

It was always a tournament that spawned a weekend of fun and softball -- a perfect match for Scott.

But last year's tournament ended up being the starting point for the most difficult and life-altering time of Scott's life.

And it started out with a win on the diamond.

"One of the last things I remember of that day is texting my dad after I dumped my dog on him to take care of," Scott said. "I also remember some texting back to my girlfriend, Amy (Ridley), saying we were having a good time."

After Chub's Pub won its first game, they met in the parking lot to gear up for the second tilt.

During the game, close friend and teammate Wendell Loe didn't notice anything unusual about Scott's behavior or any predisposing conditions which could have been affecting him.

"He missed a ball in the outfield he usually makes, but that happens sometimes," said Loe, who has been Scott's teammate for the last 17 years. "He also hit a ball to the fence, too, so there wasn't anything unusual."

After the game, Scott walked over to the drinking fountain, then proceeded to go back to the bench to sit.

Around that time, a piece of plaque which had built up in Scott's left artery in his heart, broke loose halfway and shot up like a trapdoor, blocking all blood from carrying vital oxygen to his organs and brain.

Scott had no preexisting conditions or symptoms, but to the Widowmaker, that doesn't make one bit a difference.

"Some people yelled at us saying that Pat collapsed in the bench area," Loe recalled. "We ran over and it looked like he was choking (because his face was turning purple), so we started searching for anything like sunflower seeds which were clogging his airway."

But the first fortunate aspect occurred which started the series of saving Scott's life.

On the next field, a couple of nurses from MeritCare were playing in a game. They heard the commotion, rushed over, and quickly diagnosed that Scott was having a heart attack.

"We were absolutely dumbfounded, I mean, considering Pat's age and a heart attack?" said Loe.

The second step in saving Scott's life came in the form of Rick Fisher, who was the opposing pitcher in the previous game against Chub's Pub.

Fisher started performing CPR on Scott, while the nurses did the compressions until the ambulance arrived.

"It felt like forever before the ambulance arrived, but it really took only about 10 minutes," Loe added.

The EMT's had to shock Scott's heart three to four times with their defibrillator and by the time they felt a slight pulse, it had been 18 minutes since he had a heartbeat.

Scott's chances of survival were dire and a chaplain was called in to basically give him his last rites and make phone calls to his family.

That's when Doug Scott received the worst phone call of his life.

"I got the call at work and one of my friends said Pat collapsed during the softball tournament," Doug said. "I jumped in my car and just flew to Detroit Lakes and every time I saw the number pop up on my cell from the hospital, I thought Pat was gone."

Pat's mother, Ginger Wallace, was already in DL and was at her son's side early on.

But one of the calls from the chaplain redirected Doug, who passed Pat's ambulance on Highway 10 heading to Fargo.

There, surgeons had to crack open Pat's chest and place a machine to assist the left ventricle in his heart, after they placed a stent in his heart.

His chest remained open for two weeks.

"They told me they had to place gauze in my chest and cover it up with a plastic sheet," Pat said. "That isn't something I would ever want to see."

But Scott's family had to go through an ordeal no family ever imagines -- seeing a loved one, so young, placed on a breathing ventilator.

For two weeks, Scott was in an induced coma as the device assisted his left ventricle. His heart was working only at 30 percent.

"When the doctor comes to you and says your son can't be any sicker than he is now, I can't tell you how that feels," Doug said. "It's awful."

But on Aug. 5 -- 19 days since he collapsed in DL -- the breathing ventilator was removed and Pat opened his eyes.

It was coincidentally, his 35th birthday.

"It was strange waking up and seeing all those machines hooked up to me," Pat said. "It was emotional right away, seeing my mom, girlfriend and nurses looking over me. I felt more bad about putting my family through what I did, than for me.

"I do know, though, my next birthday will be that much more important."

But Scott wasn't out of the woods, yet.

He had to endure up to three weeks of kidney dialysis after both his kidneys shut down, and hundreds of tests to check for any type of brain damage after his heart was basically not beating for 18 minutes.

"The day I had my heart attack, I weighed 175 pounds. When I woke up, I was at 135," Scott said.

Amazingly, Scott didn't suffer any brain damage or any other type of physical damage after his heart attack.

"But my heart is basically running at 45 percent now," he said.

Fortunately, it's a heart that is still beating.

"It was simply a miracle," Doug stated.

Friends step up to pitch in on Scott's behalf

In a time of crisis such as Scott's, one finds out who your friends really are.

Scott found he had an entire team full of them.

Headed by Loe and another close friend, Chad Jansen, a softball tournament was held as a fundraiser last September in Fargo.

Entries poured in, which cost $175 per team.

"We ended up having 48 to 50 teams playing in it, along with a silent auction," Loe said. "We were able to put a little dent in Pat's medical costs."

That dent came in the form of $10,000-$12,000, resulting from just one weekend tournament.

"Pat just has wonderful friends," Doug said.

Ironically on that unfortunate day last year, Pat made a new friend in Fisher, who played an integral part in saving his life.

Fisher is also Chub's Pub's pitcher, as well.

"We don't talk about it much," Pat said of his and Fisher's experience last year. "But I'm very grateful for him."

Saturday Scott returned to the very place -- Snappy Park -- where his life-altering experience started.

Scott has been medically cleared to play softball and he has done just that all summer long, playing for his usual Chub's Pub/Hot Tubs of Fun team.

"It's going to be weird going back there to play," said Scott, who hasn't been back to Snappy Park since his heart attack.

Scott, a construction worker by trade, is currently unemployed and is living in his cabin on Tamarac Lake near Dunvilla.

"I'm just enjoying life and always wanted to live out at my cabin," Scott said. "I'm just enjoying it all, even though I'm in limbo with work. I may just go back to school."

One good thing that came from Scott's heart attack was the addition of a heart defibrillator at Snappy Park.

The DL Softball Association and the Lakes Curling Club are now sharing a defibrillator, just for cases such as Scott's.

"It's fantastic that they now have a defibrillator," Pat said. "This can happen to anyone at anytime and it's sure to happen again and there is something there to help them."

As Scott plays in his 10th Water Carnival Tournament this weekend, it is no doubt his most memorable.

No matter the outcome, just having the chance to return is a gift.

"I just have so much more appreciation of life now," he concluded.

All due thanks to perfect timing and people stepping up to the plate to save a life.

Brian Wierima
Detroit Lakes Newspapers Sports Editor for the last 15 years. St. Cloud State University graduate, who hails from Deer Creek, MN.