HUMANA Heroes: November 2013 Athlete of the Month
On June 22nd, 2007, John Bates was having the time of his life, sharing a tennis court with his doubles partner and wife Janice Sullivan. They had traveled to Louisville, Kentucky from their home in east Tennessee to compete in the 2007 National Senior Games.
In one moment, he was practicing for competition starting the next day and contemplating how to win a game of tennis. In the next moment, John found himself in a game of survival, clutching his chest and collapsing to the court. Janice instantly came to his aid and found her husband was unconscious, not breathing and had no heartbeat. Time stood still.
Through a series of miraculous and heroic actions, John survived the ordeal. Five days later, he was released from the hospital with an implanted Automatic Internal Cardiac Defibrillator and a discharge diagnosis of “post sudden cardiac death.”
“There was local and national media coverage of the incident, but I never got to thank those who saved me,” he recalls. “I owe my life to my wife and her quick actions, but also to the emergency medical team that they had in place. All participants should thank the EMS personnel for their presence, professionalism and service at The Games. They were truly remarkable for me.”
John and Janice returned to play singles and doubles matches at the 2009 National Senior Games Presented by Humana in Palo Alto, California, where he posed for the above photo while on a beach excursion. They were beaten by the eventual mixed doubles Gold Medal winners. They played in Cleveland this year (“We won a couple of rounds”) and John’s new goal for 2015 is to qualify for the 5k and 10k road races and the triathlon. “This year I’ve done six half marathons and three triathlons so I feel good about it.”
Now 69, the former director of a wellness center and chairman of the Virginia Governor’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sports says his ultimate goal is to live to 100. “It’s like training for a marathon. There’s certain steps you have to follow to get there, and a healthy lifestyle is the Number One factor in that.”
John says giving thanks is a now a daily ritual. “Every morning I wake up and say ‘It’s a new record! This is the longest I’ve ever lived!’ And tomorrow will be another record.”