Bob Harper on surviving "6% survival" heart attack: "Not to be dramatic, but I was dead"
By Elizabeth Kwiatkowski, 04/04/2017
Bob Harper is opening up about the "hugely shocking" heart attack that almost killed him and how the health scare has impacted his life at age 51.
During a Tuesday appearance on the Today show, the fitness icon and former The Biggest Loser trainer talked about surviving a heart attack during a normal February 12 workout and waking up from a two-day coma in the hospital after going into cardiac arrest.
"I had what they call a widowmaker," Harper said of his massive heart attack that typically results in sudden death. "It was a 6% survival rate. The fact that there were doctors in the gym when I had the heart attack saved my life."
Harper -- whose mother died from a heart attack -- was exercising in a New York City gym when he collapsed.
"I don't remember that day at all. I was told I went to the gym as I always do. It was Sunday morning, I was working out with some friends of mine at the end of the workout I went down to the ground," he noted.
"If you've ever done CrossFit, you know that sometimes people go down to the ground. It wasn't until a minute or so later that people realized that something was going on. The coach went into full damage control."
Luckily, the gym was hosting an event and two doctors were nearby who immediately tended to Harper when he fell, administered CPR and used shock paddles to keep him alive.
"I was so lucky. Thank God they were [there]. They started performing CPR on me, they pulled out the AEDs and used that on my twice before the paramedics got there super quick and they jolted me one more time," Harper said on Today.
"I was in full cardiac arrest. My heart stopped. I mean, not to be dramatic, but I was dead. I was on that ground dead."
Harper apparently learned a valuable lesson from his experience at this particular gym.
"I will never ever walk into a gym again that doesn't have CPR, people that know their CPR, and there's an AED somewhere in that gym," he revealed.
Harper was rushed to the hospital, where he woke up from his coma two days later in a state of confusion. He recalled the moment as being "super scary."
"I was like Dory from Finding Nemo because I had this short-term memory [loss]. I was reliving the heart attack over and over again," Harper explained, adding that his loved ones were at his bedside to answer his questions.
"I was like, 'Wait, why am I here? What happened to me?' Then 10 minutes later, I was like, 'Wait, what happened to me?' My friends were there and they were getting super emotional. It was really so sad but kind of funny too because they were reliving it over and over again."
Harper thankfully feels well taken care of and "good" now. He said on Today it's been "hugely beneficial" for him to undergo cardiac rehab three days a week on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.
"I'm feeling good, I'm taking it one day at a time. I'm doing exactly what the doctors tell me to do," Harper noted with a laugh, although it's been "hard" to deal with the heart attack emotionally.
"I am going through some depression. You really face your mortality. And I'm really understanding what's important and what's really important in life. I'm not sweating the small things anymore, and I'm not sweating the big things anymore. I care about my friends, I care about my family, I care about my dog. I'm going to appreciate every singly day that is here."
Harper started to tear up during his interview, saying, "I get so emotional talking about it because I haven't talked about it."
Although Harper is "very regimented" when it comes to nutrition and fitness, not to mention the fact he lives "a very healthy lifestyle," the personal trainer revealed it's important to listen to one's body.
"I've learned a lot about myself. I've learned a lot about the fact that genetics does play a part in this. It is so important to know your health," he said.
"I work out all the time. But there were things that were going on in my body that I needed to be more aware of," Harper disclosed, pointing out that he often pushed himself too hard.
"I think about so many things now. Before the heart attack I was having dizzy spells, and maybe I should have taken that more seriously. Man, it's been a huge wake-up call for me."
Harper then strongly encouraged listeners to go to the doctor for exams and check their cholesterol levels because he doesn't want anyone to go through the same terrifying situation.
Harper served as a trainer on The Biggest Loser since its first season debuted back in Fall 2004. He later led post-elimination workout routines -- and conducted separate weigh-ins -- for contestants at the show's "Comeback Canyon" in Season 16.
The last season of The Biggest Loser, Season 17, premiered in January 2016 and wrapped the following month. For that edition of the reality weight-loss competition, Harper replaced Alison Sweeney as host.
Harper currently runs his mytrainerbob.com website and also recently appeared on The New Celebrity Apprentice as a boardroom adviser.