To say Rick Ball is feeling lucky would be an understatement.
The play-by-play voice of the Calgary Flames on Rogers Sportsnet was spending a quiet afternoon at home and then suddenly it happened.
“It was lunch time and I was feeding the dog. I started to feel some light-headedness. It kept getting worse and worse and I thought, I’m going to pass out. The next thing I remember is coming to on the kitchen floor and my wife is calling 911,” explained Ball.
The ambulance arrived and transported Ball to a local hospital, where he was diagnosed with a pulmonary embolism in his lungs. As per the Mayo Clinic definition, a pulmonary embolism is a blockage in one of the pulmonary arteries in your lungs. In most cases, a pulmonary embolism is caused by blood clots that travel to the lungs from deep veins in the legs or, rarely, from veins in other parts of the body – also known as deep vein thrombosis.
Pulmonary embolisms also have a mortality rate as high as 30% in some cases.
In Ball’s case, a set of circumstances that started in July led to the incident on Sunday, Oct. 16.
“They found blood clots in my lungs and traced it back to quite a big blood clot in my right leg. They then asked me if I had broken any bones or done some travelling and I answered yes to both,” said Ball, who was hospitalised for a week before being released.
Ball had participated in this writer’s golf tournament in Kelowna on July 19. He twisted his right leg awkwardly when he stepped on a sprinkler but played the rest of the round and a few more rounds after that while visiting the Okanagan. With the leg continuing to bother him, he was finally diagnosed with a broken right fibula and he was fitted with a walking boot.
After returning to Calgary for a short period of time, Ball took a trip to Vancouver Island driving 10 hours from Calgary to the Tsawwassen ferry terminal. Shortly thereafter he and his family flew to Arizona for a week-long vacation before returning to Calgary. During this time, Ball noticed his right foot was a little puffy but assumed it was in relation to the broken fibula as he had discarded the walking boot between the Vancouver Island and Arizona trips.
Things started to get worse a few days before the start of the NHL season. “I wasn’t feeling very good and I thought I had COVID again. I was extremely tired. Walking up stairs was hard and I thought something is wrong. The day that I collapsed at home I said to myself, if I feel like this tomorrow, I’m going to the doctor,” said Ball.
Doctors are almost certain that this chain of events caused the pulmonary embolism although they are doing follow up tests to make sure. His recovery from the incident has made Ball feel extremely fortunate.
“When I got to the hospital, the doctors asked me what had happened. I told them I had collapsed in my kitchen. Every doctor that I told that to was like “You passed out?” They said you’re lucky – most of the time when someone passes out from that they don’t ever wake up again,” said Ball, his voice starting to crack with a little emotion.
“You hear all the cliches when something like this happens and they’re true. I think about this all the time. That could have been it. You really have to savor every day with your family and friends and how important all that is. Everything else is secondary. It really puts things in perspective.”
Ball anticipates returning to the booth for home games soon but will need medical clearance before he can fly to away games. The important thing is that he’s on the road to recovery.
“Believe me, it’s getting much better everyday. I’m not running any marathons but I feel quite a bit better than before,” said Ball.
Don’t worry about the marathons Baller – just focus on getting healthy my friend.
Veteran B.C. sports personality Bob “the Moj” Marjanovich writes twice weekly for Black Press Media. And check out his weekly podcast every Monday at Today in B.C. or your local Black Press Media website.