Partway through his daily swim, Bob Bruner grabbed a lane line and told the lifeguard, “Karen, I don’t feel so good.”
In the unfolding drama that November morning, Bruner, 63, first found himself lying flat on his back on the deck of the Mecklenburg County Aquatic Center.
Next, he recalls gazing at the ceiling of an ambulance, not particularly panicked, but wondering if he ought to be thinking about dying.
Then, his heart stopped beating amid a massive heart attack, the result of a major blockage in an artery.
But on Thursday morning, here was was, back at the Aquatic Center to thank head lifeguard Karen Black and other staff members for helping save his life on Nov. 16.
He also gave everyone a special gift to show his appreciation.
“I didn’t know how to thank them, so I gave everybody a pack of Life Savers,” said Bruner. He looked at Black. “You saved my life.”
Sharla Moore, who works at the front desk, joined Bruner and Black as they recalled that hectic morning. Even before Bruner’s heart attack, the three had long been friends, often talking at length about football and other everyday concerns during his regular visits.
“We build relationships with members, I wouldn’t have it any other way,” Moore said.
Shortly after Bruner collapsed, Moore drove to his house in Dilworth and knocked on the door. Moore told Bruner’s wife, “You don’t know me, but your husband’s in trouble.”
Thanks to her, Bruner’s wife was able to arrive at the Aquatic Center and accompany him to the hospital.
Black hugged Bruner tightly and told him he looked fantastic, like the old Bob.
“I’m so thankful,” she said. “Life is so fragile.”