ZEPHYRHILLS, Fla. — Disc golf champion JohnE McCray is returning to the course after a near-death experience.
“Four minutes. My heart had stopped,” McCray said.
“I didn’t know if I was going home with my husband or not,” his wife and caddie, Jennifer McCray said. “It happened so fast.”
Five months ago, McCray was on the course at the Barnett Park Pro-Am Championships in Orlando. During the tournament, he began to feel a pain creep from his shoulder down his arm.
“I ended up playing about six holes in it started hurting a little bit more,” McCray told ABC Action News sports anchor Kyle Burger. “Then I got to hole 10 and it was starting to go down the back of my arm a little bit. By the time we finished hole 11 it was almost to my elbow.”
Luckily for McCray, Dr. Jeremy Drake was playing in the group ahead. Dr. Drake recognized McCray’s symptoms and called an ambulance.
“If I would’ve played one more hole I probably wouldn’t have made it,” McCray said. “I was pretty lucky actually.”
He barely made it to the emergency room when his heart stopped beating.
“The nurse yelled ‘crash cart,’” McCray said. “Hit me twice with the defibrillator. I distinctly remember during that, I heard ‘hit him again!’ I sat up, I felt like I sat up, but my eyes weren’t open and I said ‘I’m alive!’”
He needed surgery immediately. The medical staff told Jennifer this might be her last chance to speak to him.
“I had about 15 seconds, I leaned down and whispered in his ear. I said ‘it’s time to fight. You need to fight. I will be right here waiting for you,’” she said.
McCray woke up two days later.
“It’s definitely way scarier now than it was then because it happened so fast,” he said.
Meanwhile, the disc golf community around the world came together to help with medical expenses.
“It’s been amazing. I never knew how much I was loved,” McCray said with a tear in his eye. “It’s been super-exciting. They raised over $30,000 for me. My hospital bills were over $200,000 in bills. It’s really heart-warming and makes you feel really good.”
He now has a defibrillator and three stents in his heart. But McCray is practicing every day getting ready for his next professional competition on July 12.
He’s hoping to prove that he still has the heart of a champion.
“Me and my wife have been exercising every night after dinner, going for walks, trying to get stronger and stronger. She’s been helping me a lot.”