Nick Prukop has led an adventurous, purposeful life first as a crew commander with Strategic Air Command in the U.S. Air Force and later in a career in the corporate world. But, when he signed his first personal fitness client, he found his calling as a trainer and health coach. In 2013, he published a book, Healthy Aging & You.
Until July 2019, Nick was in the best shape of his life: running six-minute miles, bench pressing 250 pounds and pushing his clients to stay strong and fit. At 73, he had never been to the hospital. That is, until a fateful day in July 2019 when he was struck by a pickup truck while bicycling. The impact launched him 25 feet from the point of impact.
A NEW CHAPTER
Nick remembers seeing the truck’s grill, the agonizing pain and a passing nurse who came to his aid while they waited for paramedics to arrive. He then woke up in the Orange County Global Medical Center. “The surgeon asked me, ‘How did you live?’” Nick remembers. “I walked away with bruises, scrapes and eight broken ribs.”
After he was tested and observed for four days, Nick returned home. “I’ve learned there’s no tomorrow,” he says. “I wake up in the morning with a smile on my face knowing life can change in an instant.”
As he recovered, Nick began experiencing severe bouts of sweating and palpitations. On September 19, he walked out of his apartment and, suddenly, he couldn’t breathe. He crawled back inside and called 911.
Paramedics arrived a few minutes later and told him they were taking him to Hoag.
CHALLENGED BUT UNDAUNTED
“The Hoag ICU nurses and staff were on top of things,” Nick says. “It was like being back in the Strategic Air Command. Everyone had a role and a common mission objective. The nurses made sure I knew what was happening and what I needed to do to get through it.”
After much testing, Hoag physicians found that Nick had developed blood clots in his legs and a pulmonary embolism. If he hadn’t received help in the time he did, he wouldn’t be here.
Further testing showed he has partially blocked arteries. After his consultation with Jorge Castellanos, M.D., a cardiologist at the Jeffrey M. Carlton Heart & Vascular Institute, Nick faced health challenges for the first time in his life. “Dr. Castellanos explained that once we took care of the blood clots and I returned to him for the heart issue, I could go back to where I was physically,” Nick said.
Although Nick knows he’s in good hands, he faces uncertainties that test his spirit. “I’ve always identified as a runner, with being strong and fast,” he says. “But now I’m a patient, and I’m doing everything the nurses told me to do to keep going forward towards health.”
Nick hopes to find a way he can give back to Hoag by using his health and wellness expertise and his newfound gratitude for life. “If I had to pick the heroes of this story, I’d pick the ICU nurses at Hoag,” he says. “The nurses are the glue that holds it all together.”
For more information on how you can support Hoag, please visit www.hoagpromise.org.
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