Sunday, August 8, 2004

Knight reveals battle with heart condition



By John Erardi
Enquirer staff writer

Everybody who was around then-Reds manager Ray Knight in 1996-97 knows how wired he was about wanting his team to do well. But nobody, including Knight, knew exactly how big of a toll the big seat was taking on him.

Now, everybody knows.

Last week, Knight and his wife, Hall of Fame golfer Nancy Lopez, went public with the fact Knight suffered a heart attack about three years ago that he attributes to a lifestyle he let get away from him while managing the Reds.

"I was just going way too fast, not taking care of myself," said Knight, 51, during a conference call to promote his and Lopez's "Back in Full Swing" campaign to inspire families to get back on track after a heart attack.

"I don't smoke and I don't drink, but I wasn't eating right and I wasn't sleeping well. I didn't feel well, but I thought it was just the job, the stress," Knight said. "Turns out I was (bringing coronary artery disease) into my life by the way I was living - too much stress, not sleeping well and eating all those (fast-food hamburgers) in the middle of the night."

It was around that time - one winter in the late 1990s - when Knight was skiing in Colorado and was short of breath and having some chest pains. He was checked out by a doctor, who diagnosed Knight as having high-altitude pulmonary edema. The likely problem Knight was having was not related to his lungs, but his heart. It probably wasn't getting sufficient oxygen even back then, his cardiologist said after Knight suffered a heart attack three years ago.

The onset of the heart attack occurred one day while Knight was playing basketball in his backyard at home in Albany, Ga., and felt "really tired." He went inside to lay down. Next afternoon, same thing.

"It felt like heartburn, not like a heart attack," Knight remembered. "But then, two or three days later, I was on a hunting trip in Colorado and I was walking up a hill on the way back and I was just exhausted."

He checked into the hospital. Turns out he had one considerably blocked artery and another lesser blocked artery, so doctors did an angioplasty and inserted a couple of stents.

"There was no history of heart disease in my family," Knight said. "My daddy had 11 brothers and sisters, my mom had six brothers and sisters, and there was no sign of it. And when my daddy was having chest pains at age 72, they checked him out and said, 'Your arteries are as clean as a whistle; it's like you're 30 years old!' I assumed I'd be just like that. It blew me away when learned I wasn't. But my daddy wasn't eating fast-food at 3 or 4 o'clock in the morning."

In 2001-02, Knight was a Reds coach for then-manager Bob Boone. Knight was feeling a bit run-down, but he has had his medications adjusted and has been feeling better. (Knight's condition can be found at www.backinfullswing.com.)

"My health is great," Knight said. "My doctors tell me I'll live to 90 if I don't get hit by a truck."




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