A year and a half after stranger saved his life, Stanton Truxillo is headed to the bike races
Pam LeBlanc, Fit City
A year and a half ago, Stanton Truxillo slumped off his bicycle, stricken by a heart attack during a 40-mile group ride from Austin to Creedmoor and back.
He might have died, but a stranger wearing scrubs, flagged down by a fellow cyclist, leaped from a passing car and swooped in to perform cardiopulmonary resuscitation until paramedics arrived.
Truxillo, 70, the former president of the Austin Cycling Association, never learned the identity of that good Samaritan. As he pumps the pedals during a training ride today, though, he knows the man is part of the reason he'll be lining up at the start of a 40-kilometer road race during the upcoming Texas State Senior Games.
The games, in which athletes 50 and older compete in more than 20 sports from archery to volleyball, take place Saturday through April 1 in San Antonio. Truxillo hopes to repeat the success he had at the competition in 2004 and 2005, when he won gold. In 2005, he went on to take third at the national level.
If he medals in San Antonio this time, he'll again qualify for nationals. "And it would be most cool for ‘the dead guy' to go to nationals," he says, smiling beneath a mustache and cropped salt-and-pepper hair.
Truxillo suffered his heart attack on Aug. 3, 2010. A group of Austin Cycling Association riders had strung out along Slaughter Lane when the retired geophysicist and college professor said he felt unwell and needed to stop and call for a ride home. A few seconds later, he blacked out, collapsing onto cyclist Steve Logan and crashing to the pavement.
Someone unclipped him from his pedals. None of the cyclists knew CPR. While one called 911, cyclist Tammy Walters ran into traffic and stopped cars, asking if anyone knew CPR.
Someone in the second car she flagged did.
That stranger was performing CPR when the first emergency vehicle arrived and continued pumping Truxillo's heart for him until a second one showed up. Then the man stepped back into his car and drove away.
An ambulance rushed Truxillo to St. David's South Austin Medical Center, where doctors put him into an induced coma for a day and a half. A week later, he underwent quadruple bypass surgery.
"If I'd been by myself, I'd be dead," Truxillo says. "If people hadn't reacted the way they had, I'd be dead."
His cycling friends knew that their bike racing mentor might not survive, so seeing him gear up for the Senior Games now is especially sweet.
"When he was on the ground in the road, he looked dead," says William Hudson, 63, who was leading the ride that day and rode with Truxillo in the ambulance.
"It was the worst day of my life," says Walters, 43. "We thought he was dead. We assumed if he lived his chance of having brain damage was really high. It was a really horrible time until two days later when he wrote a note and said, ‘Where am I and why am I here?'"
It's taken more than a year for the accomplished road racer and coach to return to race shape. For two months after the bypass, the only physical exercise Truxillo could do was walk, a frustrating position for someone who's finished at or near the top of dozens of state and a handful of national bike races. When his doctors finally gave him the go-ahead to ride again, more than a dozen friends joined him for an inaugural loop through the Allandale neighborhood, a short two-wheeled celebration on flat roads at low speeds.
Since then he's gradually increased his distance, speed and effort. Today he rides more than 100 miles a week and cross trains by kayaking. "It's a chess game on wheels," he says of bike racing. "I like the strategy of it."
When they learned he would recover, Truxillo's cycling buddies joked about what he'd seen on the other side, and if they needed to go to church on Sundays or if they could just keep riding their bikes. For about a year, they wouldn't let their friend bike alone.
"Almost every evening I'd get a call from someone in the group, ‘Hey, you riding tomorrow? How about some company? Where do you want to go?' And when I slid off the group on a hill because I was so slow in those early recovery rides, there was always someone next to me or behind me, (saying) ‘How you feeling? You OK?' " he says.
It's the second brush with mortality for Truxillo, a prostate cancer survivor. The experiences, he says, have made him less hesitant to show his emotion and less fearful of death. "I want those I love to know I love them. I hug more, touch more. Tomorrow may not come," he says.
The cyclists have grown more close-knit. They know Truxillo was lucky. Not long after his heart attack, another Austin Cycling Association cyclist suffered a heart attack during a group ride and died.
"I'm just glad he's alive," says Logan, 57.
The cyclists make an effort to exchange emergency contact information. They pay close attention when someone says he doesn't feel well. Hudson scheduled CPR classes for the club's members; about 30 have gotten certified. And they've organized the Formerly Late Stanton Truxillo Memorial Bike Ride, an informal ride among friends that ends with a picnic and CPR training.
Word that Truxillo would register for the Senior Games thrilled them straight to their spokes and chain rings.
"That was probably one of our most exciting moments — when he said that he felt in good enough shape that he could actually perform well," Walters says.
Next to family, cycling is what Truxillo loves most. He's competitive, too. He might even have a slight advantage when he wheels his blue-and-white Cervelo race bike to the starting line.
"Before, (his heart) was clogged. Now it's like brand-new," Walters says.
If that's not enough, Truxillo can feed off an extra shot of inspiration: a stranger who kept this cyclist's heart pumping in the crucial moments after he suffered a massive heart attack.
Contact Pam LeBlanc at 445-3994
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