"I wasn't playing very well. As we played a couple more holes, I got more dizzy. I think it's the first time I've ever stopped at the golf course," Foster recalled. "I was having one of the symptoms of a possible heart attack, and that was dizziness, (feeling) rubber-kneed and such. My playing partners suggested I go to the hospital. Me being the idiot I am, I just went home and took a nap, and my wife said, 'No, they're right. You're going to the hospital.' They did the angiogram, and imagine my surprise when they said, 'You have five arteries blocked.'"
Fortunately, the insistence of his friends and wife allowed the doctors to catch the problem before a heart attack, making way for quintuple bypass heart surgery before any major damage to the heart could occur.
For the 58-year-old KOLD Channel 13 newsman, his life choices would suggest he wasn't a candidate for a heart attack.
"I had no clue, no symptoms; my cholesterol was 113, blood pressure was 115/70; I exercise every day; I don't drink or smoke; I've maintained the same weight for 15 years," Foster said. "Everybody considered me the health guy. I didn't eat crazy. I was the healthy one in the group. Boy, was I shocked."
But genetics trumps healthy lifestyle.
"My father had his first heart attack at 47. He died of a stroke," Foster said. "I asked the cardiologist afterward what I could have done, and he said nothing. With family history, there's a very good likelihood you're going to have the same problem. If it's genetic, there's nothing you can do about it except maybe get tested, and then maybe you can take medication or do something."
Foster's "something" was the serious and invasive, yet remarkably routine, heart bypass. "All I could think of was them starting a chainsaw and cutting my breast bone," he said.
And now, two months after the procedure, his gradual rehab continues.
"It takes six to eight weeks before you can get back. Coming back from this has been more difficult than I anticipated," Foster said. "I can't imagine how difficult it is for those people who have this in their 70s and 80s. A lot of people go through this, but I didn't have any idea how tough it would be to come back from this. I'm working at it pretty hard. I exercise every day, and my improvement is ahead of schedule, but it's been hard. It's a shock to your entire system."
Prior to the surgery, Foster had just been reassigned from a co-anchor position on KOLD's morning-news program to political-specialist job, a position that played to his near-three-decade stint in the market. Not that the timing is ever good for something like this, but Foster seemed especially annoyed that he had to sit out February's Super Tuesday primaries. However, his return--which could happen within the next couple of weeks--should give Foster plenty of time to gear up for the major events leading to the general election.
"It will be nice to get back and cover the election," Foster said. "I missed the Feb. 5 primary. I sat and yelled at the television set a few times. There are some good congressional races coming up this year. (Arizona) districts 8, 3 and 1 are going to be great races. It will be nice to be back. It's nice to be any place right now."
Foster's television news career spans 35 years, the first seven in Phoenix. He moved to Tucson in 1980 and has worked at some stage for all three major network news affiliates in the market. He's been with KOLD for 14 years, and while he preps for his return, the surgery has clearly given him perspective on an uncertain future.
"I've had tons of e-mails and cards and phone cards. I'm happy for it all," said Foster. "One of my friends came over to bring some good cheer and said, 'I could just imagine myself reading the obituaries about Bud Foster, who at 58 was just too young to die.' She said that's all she could think of. I thought of that a lot, too. I'm just happy I got a second opportunity. I'm going to use it, and use it well. I'm not exactly sure what my future holds, but I know I'm going to use this second opportunity, and use it as well as I possibly can."
The Star is one of three finalists in the Society of American Business Editors and Writers Breaking News category for newspapers with circulations of 125,000 or less.
The judges' comments: "Strong package that explained the far-reaching impact caused by the sudden shutdown of a major employer. The stories provided nice detail and background and quoted a broad range of stakeholders and community experts. Excellent front-page treatment breaking down the impact for all different stakeholders. Good use of wire to illustrate the broader industry context and causes for the mortgage industry meltdown."