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John at LDHS
Referee Magzine Dec 2005
Story as it appeared in Referee Magazine

The temperature was in the 80’s for the first time this season and I had worked the plate for both a middle school softball game in the afternoon and then a Senior Little League game in the evening.
I had been at my home in Mechanicsville for maybe an hour after the Little League game when I was overcome by pain that could best be described as “crippling indigestion.”
I couldn’t sleep and there was no position—sitting, standing, laying on one side or the other—that would mitigate the pain.
It was the night of our 20th wedding anniversary and my wife had made Mexican food that afternoon for a nice, romantic lunch which we enjoyed on our deck

on Deck eating Mexican lunch on May 11, 2003
We both knew that meal was going to wreak havoc with my digestive system, but what the heck, you only get one 20th anniversary.
So as the pain lingered for hours we were sure it was indigestion and that I would eventually get over it.
After having her sleep interrupted by my moaning and groaning for about two hours, my wife went downstairs to sleep in the baby’s room while I continued to complain about the pain.
“You’re not having a heart attack, it’s the Mexican food.” she said.  “And I’m sorry there’s nothing I can do for you.” (note added from wife- John had been to the Drs a month earlier and was told his cholesterol was good and he was given a clean bill of health)
As it turns out, actually I was having a heart attack.
Before becoming an umpire I was a hockey referee for 22 years.  I started umpiring because I always loved baseball; regretted that I hadn’t played beyond high school-aged recreation league ball; and because my body just couldn’t take any more of the wear and tear of competitive hockey.
In three years of umpiring my only injuries were some bruises on my hands and arms from foul balls and a pulled muscle from slipping on wet grass while chasing a softball player from first to second (it was my first season and I was way out of position on the overthrow from short).
In the two seasons before I made the move to umpiring I had spent more time in the emergency room than in taverns after games.  I had suffered painful injuries to my jaw; my left arm; both ankles; my right knee and—most memorably—my groin.
The groin injury was a story in itself.  Looking to dump the puck the length of the ice while killing a penalty, a college player had wound up and fired a slapshot without taking a moment to look up and see who might be in the puck’s path.
I was 30’ away from him and completely out of the way of where he could possibly make any logical play; so naturally that’s where the puck went.
There were about 500 people in the arena watching the game and every one of them fell silent as the puck headed toward me.  Then they collectively let out an anguished “ooh” when the puck hit paydirt.
Though I was wearing the best protective gear on the market, the pain was, well, considerable.
Hockey players and referees know from sacred tradition never to give in to pain; so I instinctively continued to work.  That lasted about five seconds.  Sometimes it’s best to just lay there.
But with all the referee injuries resulting from collisions with pucks, sticks and players, I had to become an umpire to have a heart attack.
As I write this I am eagerly anticipating my upcoming double bypass operation.
I’m a lucky man; I had a massive heart attack and I’m still alive.  The heart attack came just six weeks ago.
After my wife went downstairs to get some sleep, I stayed in bed, tossing, turning and complaining to myself, trying to decide if I should drive to 7-Eleven for Tums.
I decided to make the trip and went downstairs when suddenly my arms began to hurt, and that scared me.  Pain in the chest and arms are, after all, two of the classic signs of cardio-vascular distress.  And while I had no trouble breathing, and I wasn’t sweating or nauseated, I decided to err on the side of caution.  So I made the call.
I took an ambulance to the hospital, lost consciousness on the way, and woke up 14 hours later in an intensive care room after having my life saved by a surgeon who placed a stint—that’s the balloon thing which opens a closed pathway for blood going to and from the heart--in one of my closed arteries.May 12, 2005
Now I sit around waiting for my heart to heal enough to handle the stress of the bypass surgery.  The cardiologist tells me my arteries are so badly clogged that after the surgery I will feel better than I’ve felt in 15 years.
But in the interim I can’t go to work; the mortgage company and others who expect regular payments from me are totally unsympathetic; and the highlight of my day is going to the supermarket to take a 15-minute cardio-walk.
Every night I’m afraid to go to sleep because I’m concerned I might never wake up.
But I have hope.  I have a 2-year-old son who is going to play pro ball if I’m around to coach him. I have a surgeon warming up his scalpel (and the saw he’ll use to cut my breastbone in half to gain access to my heart, oh boy!).  And I have a bunch of umpire uniforms that are going to be way too big for me now that I’ve had a healthy lifestyle forced upon me.
I plan to be at pre-season training in February and consistently calling high outside strikes in March. 
If only they had a bypass operation for my knees and ankles.


Note: John had 5 bypass surgery June 2005, and as predicted by him, he was back on the field umpiring in 2006 and 2007.  He made a comeback and  felt excellent and was happy to be back on the field and on the ice in excellent shape.  On. June 2, 2007 he umpired his last game at Atlee Little League. 24 hours later on June 3, while at home with his family he had a fatal massive heart attack. This time his wife did not hesitate to call 911. She started CPR immediately. 11 minutes later the house and yard was filled with police cars, fire trucks, ambulances and EMTs, but John did not regain conciseness and was taken to Memorial Regional Medical Center where he was pronounced dead.

Hockey's Tough, but BASEBALL Could KILL You
By John D’Angelo

John at Lee-Davis HS on the field during pre-season training
While John was awaiting bypass surgery, he wrote the article below. It was published in the Dec 05 issue of Referee Magazine and publishing online in the Gerry Davis Sports newsletter
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