As a young executive, Gordon Peters played full-court basketball with his colleagues during lunch. It helped them de-stress, he said, and get to know each other. And, of course, it was fun.
Over the years, he grew to appreciate more and more the benefits his regular physical activity provided, not only physically but mentally as well. He sought training and medical treatment that would help him keep playing the sport he loved and added to a healthy, active lifestyle. Not one to settle for lesser talents, Peters became a patient of Arthur Rettig, MD, team physician for the Indianapolis Colts, and Peters credits him for helping him continue playing full-court basketball into his 70s in spite of several injuries.
Peters continued to play after he retired from the corporate world. Playing against younger players at Ceraland Park’s gymnasium in Columbus, Indiana, never daunted him. In fact, he learned to see younger athletes as mentors.
For several years, Peters had known he had a heart murmur caused by a defective aortic valve. A physician had detected it when Peters was in his 30s, but it had not affected the way he felt or how he played. But Peters realized the heart murmur would probably worsen as he grew older.
A few years ago, he started experiencing a dull pain in his chest when he exerted himself. Then, during one game in 2009, Peters became dizzy on the court. His legs felt heavy, and he feared he would pass out.
“I had the feeling that my next step could be my last,” he said.
He excused himself from the game. Once home, he began his search for a cardiologist. On the recommendation of a friend who was a surgeon, Peters made an appointment with cardiologist William Berg, MD, with Franciscan Physician Network Indiana Heart Physicians.
After Peters described his symptoms to Dr. Berg and he was further evaluated for heart valve disease, the cardiologist told Peters in no uncertain terms he needed to see a surgeon – immediately. Dr. Berg referred Peters to Marc Gerdisch, MD, of Cardiac Surgery Associates, who recommended replacing Peters’ defective valve with a porcine valve. This new valve would require open-heart surgery and time spent in cardiac rehab.
Peters was able to return home four days after his surgery at Franciscan St. Francis Heart Center, in large part due to his good physical condition, the effects of years of playing basketball, conditioning and good nutrition. His experience at Franciscan St. Francis, he said, “was excellent in all respects, without exception.”
He completed cardiac rehab, continued walking and lifting weights. At 13 weeks post-surgery, his breast bone healed, he went back to the basketball court, conceding in taking it easy in one way only.
“That first day back, I played only two games instead of three or four,” he said.
Since then, Peters has slowed down only long enough to write and self-publish a book entitled Racing the Wind: Seventy-Seven and Still Playing Full-Court, Fast-Break Basketball. In it he outlines what it takes to achieve athletic longevity and shares his convictions about the importance of life-long physical activity to maintain optimum health, stories about his mentors and friends, and a brief guide to starting your own active routine.
“The important thing,” he wrote in his book, “is to get started now.”