Jerry Reker

Jerry Reker

Most of the time the story we're about to tell does not have a happy ending.

This one does.

"Thankfully,'' said Jerry Reker.

The one-time high school football coach, longtime wrestling referee and current principal at Kasson-Mantorville High School, Reker will tell you that this Christmas is really going to be a special one.

Mainly because he's going to be around to enjoy it.

"I'm here,'' he said, "and feel lucky that I am.''

His story ... Reker started to feel sick in the days leading up to Thanksgiving.

"At first I thought it was a cold or flu,'' he said, "because there was a lot of that stuff going on.''

It wasn't a cold, nor the flu, but it only got worse.

The first week of December, Reker even went home from school sick, and that rarely happens. And almost on a daily basis, he works out at the Rochester Athletic Club, but he stopped doing that, too.

In other words, something bad was happening.

That weekend he was officiating at a Division III wrestling tournament in La Crosse, Wis. And he felt terrible — shortness of breath, difficulty in breathing, that type of thing.

"I wasn't in very good shape,'' he said, "especially driving home.''

Two weeks ago — on Monday, Dec. 8 — Reker, with the encouragement of his wife Darcel, decided enough was enough and headed for the emergency room.

"Looking back at it now, I should have done it sooner,'' he said, "but I didn't and it almost cost me.''

Reker was suffering from bilateral pulmonary embolism, which is when both pulmonary arteries in the lungs become blocked. In most cases, it is caused by blood clots that travel to the lungs from the legs.

It is life-threatening, but not so much if one catches it early. Reker didn't.

"The doctors told me they were surprised to see me standing,'' he said, "and that I was very fortunate. One of those clots could easily have gone to my heart or brain and I wouldn't be here today.

"It was some pretty serious stuff.''

He spent two nights in intensive care and got out of the hospital a couple of days after that.

"We're so blessed to have the Mayo Clinic close by and all the doctors available to us,'' Reker said. "The care we get is second to none.''

Reker is a member of two sports halls of fame — Southwest Minnesota State University, where he wrestled in the 1970s, and last year he was inducted into the Minnesota Wrestling Coaches Association Hall of Fame.

He has been an official for 30 years and has officiated 17 Minnesota State High School League state tournaments. Reker coached at Logan, Iowa, Grand Meadow and Wabasha-Kellogg and has served as an administrator for 31 years.

And he tries to keep in tip-top shape, and that helped save him from further damage.

"Nobody can pinpoint the exact cause,'' he said, "but doctors tell me my physical conditioning certainly helped me get through it. I've had a couple of other episodes but that was a few years ago and nothing as severe.

"I learned that it happens a lot to travelers when they are seated for a long period of time, but I try to stay active and move around a lot.

"It's one of those things which could easily lead to a stroke.''

Reker is now on the mend, but he is still extremely weak.

"My heart was working overtime for about three weeks, much harder than normal,'' he said, "and that took a lot out of me.

"But I've been cleared by doctors and plan right now to ref at the Clash (Jan. 2-3). That's my goal, that's my plan.''

Last Saturday his son John was married (to Heather Martin) during a ceremony at the Chanhassen Dinner Theatre in Shakopee.

A good time was had by all, including Reker.

Wedding, the Christmas season, it's all good, and there's no need to tell Jerry Reker how blessed he is.

For that, he's beyond giving thanks.

Pressbox View runs every Wednesday. Call Craig at 285-7721 with comments or story ideas.

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