Olympian Bruce Furniss Set to Be Released from Hospital After Severe Heart Attack

Bruce Furniss
Bruce Furniss Photo Courtesy: Swimming World

This update was posted by Bruce Furniss’s family on April 9:

Good News – Our prayers have been answered

We just heard from Sharon [Bruce’s wife] that Bruce is coming home today!  It has been another rapid recovery in this roller-coaster experience.  Sharon reported this morning she received a call from Bruce this morning: “Sharon, if they and you don’t discharge me, I will sign myself out.”  Bruce said he is much better: no longer in pain and his breathing is much better.  He even got himself out of bed this morning.

Sharon conferred with the doctors who said Bruce was “good to go”.  Our husband, father, brother, uncle, cousin and friend is coming home!  I give thanks to God.

Original Story:

Olympic gold medalist and swimming hall of famer Bruce Furniss has been hospitalized after suffering a severe heart attack on March 30, according to his family.

Furniss remains in intensive care in his native California. His family has set up an account via Caring Bridge to offer updates on his condition and share support with loved ones.

Furniss’ family also released a statement:

“First, we want you to know how much we appreciate your support and prayers, particularly, in such an unprecedented time of crisis for so families across our country.  Our hearts go out to any family who has a loved one in ICU with whom they cannot visit or even gather as a family to support.  It is something difficult to fathom at a time when families need to be together to support one another.

“The outpouring of concern and prayers for Bruce, from his many friends, is testimony to how much he is loved.  One positive new development is that the hospital agreed to allow Bruce’s wife, Sharon, to be with him briefly once they bring him out of a medically induced hypothermia.  Sharon is an incredibly strong person and sometime today or tomorrow she will be able to hold his hand for all of us.”

Bruce-Furniss

Photo Courtesy: ISHOF

At the 1976 Olympics, Furniss, 62, won gold in the 200 freestyle in a world-record 1:50.29 to lead an American podium sweep. He joined Mike Bruner, John Naber and Jim Montgomery to set a world record and win gold in the 800 free relay in Montreal. He also earned two World Championship gold medals in relays and individual silvers in the 200 and 400 free at the 1975 World Championship in Cali, Colombia.

A 1987 inductee to the International Swimming Hall of Fame, Furniss set 10 world records, including five individual marks, in the 200 free and 200 individual medley. The latter record was one he took from his older brother, Steve Furniss, in 1975.

Bruce Furniss’ storied swimming career included six NCAA Championships at the University of Southern California and two Kiphuth Awards (1975 and 1976). He won 11 AAU Championships and set 19 American records (10 individual) despite battling arthritis throughout his 12-year swimming career.

Update, April 8:

Slow Progress & a lot of Pain – Bruce remains in ICU. This morning he had a surgery to correct a problem with the defibrillator. It was successful and the internal bleeding has stopped. There should be no long term effects. Bruce is experiencing discomfort, but he is making steps forward on the way back to mending. Perhaps, Bruce and all of us will need patience. We know he has the toughness, determination and persistence. We also know the Lord is protecting him. Thanks for all your support and prayers.

Like me, it is a time for slowing down and taking care of the priorities one step at a time. Perhaps you feel that in this “shelter-in-place” new normal as well. “Do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” — Wise Words for this time. Matthew 6:34 (suggest reading Matthew 6:25-34).

It is a time for loving family and friends (especially those who are alone) and for reflecting on our relationship with God. We will keep you updated. Thanks for checking in.

Update, April 7:

Not a good day. I just called Bruce who answered with three short phrases: “I am not doing well. They are transferring me downstairs (ICU). Pray for me.”

This morning Bruce had the angiogram which was followed by a procedure to insert a defibrillator. We were even hoping that he might come home tomorrow. Sharon [Bruce’s wife] heard from the cardiologist tonight and mentioned the transfer to the ICU is likely due to complications from this morning’s surgery.

We believe in the power of prayer (or I would not be posting this). Please pray for God’s hand on Bruce at this moment. (6:50 pm).

Update, April 4:

Sharon reports that the Neurologist told her this morning that Bruce is so high functioning that he no longer needs to see him any more! I was stunned – this seems impossible. The neurologist reported he gave Bruce a math problem which Bruce tackled and asked for another! He concluded, “the average person would not have survived this trauma, but Bruce’s athleticism and big heart have allowed him to progress quickly and prevail. I am no longer needed here.” Wow – nothing less than miraculous.

Bruce is getting restless (which is a sign his old self is back as many of you know). Please pray for patience and calm. He must avoid overexertion of his brain by not multitasking or overdoing things – two of Bruce’s fortes. This could be the ultimate test for Bruce in the coming weeks. I am still looking forward to talking to Bruce myself and was scheduled this evening to do this, but elected to spare Bruce from my heavy heart – maybe we will connect later this weekend. Phone calls to Bruce are limited at this time to just Sharon, the kids, me and my brothers.

Update, April 2:

Another BIG day
5:30 am this morning – Sharon is woken by a call from the hospital. The nurse says “Bruce is awake and he wants to talk to you!” Wow! Bruce says S-L-O-W-L-Y “I love you and I am going to be fine.” The nurse says his movements are equally slow. Sharon asked Bruce if he felt all the love and prayers from all of you. He replies slowly “Y-E-S I D-O” in slow motion but with a lot of heart! Bruce asks “What happened?” and Sharon explained. Bruce knew that he was at St Joseph’s.

8:30 am – Sharon gets the first of three calls from Bruce’s doctors. The first is the doctor in charge of the ICU who tells her he is USC class of ’76 and mentioned that Bruce is class of 1979. Sharon asks “How did you know?” Bruce told him! The doctor says Bruce has made a big jump yesterday which was unexpected. He says that Bruce is even initiating conversation.

Later the Cardiologist calls, he and Sharon decide to delay the angiogram until Monday. After speaking for a little bit, the doctor tells Sharon “Bruce wants to talk to you.” Bruce: “WHEN —ARE— YOU — GO—ING —TO—COME—AND—SEE—ME?” Sharon tried to explain about the pandemic which Bruce vaguely remembered but did not fully understand the purpose of the restrictions we are now all under because of Covid-19.

The third doctor was the neurologist. He also indicated that we made a major turn yesterday for the good that was not expected and that Bruce has made HUGE progress in a short time. He did warn the recovery will take many weeks but was optimistic that Bruce will likely get back to “baseline”. He said during this period he will repeat himself and have amnesia. (He will continue to fit right in with his three aging brothers at our lunches as we already do this!) Bruce has passed the swallow test so he will be taking food soon. He started occupational and physical therapy today.

We continue to be grateful for the Lord’s provision and for all of your love and support. I feel like a dark cloud is being lifted. Please continue to pray for improved & faster speech and movements as well as emotional stability. He must take this recovery slow and we must all be patient. The improvements of the last two days have been truly miraculous. We are blessed to have him with us and I look forward to a chance to FaceTime my dear brother in the coming days. We will keep you posted on this journey!

Publishers Note: On behalf of everyone at the International Swimming Hall of Fame and the staff at Swimming World, our thoughts and prayers go out to Bruce for a speedy recovery.  We wish for much strength and support to his family and loved ones.

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27 comments

  1. Pat Kennedy

    Healing prayers for Bruce, his family and loved ones. One of the greatest swimmers of my generation.

  2. Michael Ker

    Bruce is an incredible world champion and will fight this.
    Love you Bruce!

    • avatar
      Matt McDonald

      Although we have never met, I pray for your speedy recovery. 7 years ago, at the age of 52, I had cheast pains and under went open heart surgery for a double bypass. Having left the sport 18 prior, I made a promise to the man upstairs that if he got me out of here, I’d get back in the water. The water heals, Body and Spirit. Take care and know that the Swimming World is cheering for you and your family.

      • avatar
        John m razi

        So, fantastic. Love your, “the water heals”. Best. God bless.

  3. avatar
    The Izadmanesh fam

    We r soo sad… we pray for the whole family.
    We love him and his family… a great men, a father, a great husband and friend.

  4. avatar
    valerieportney

    I remember you from the 1976 Olympics. You’re going to beat this too!

  5. avatar
    ray

    you’re a champion in and out of the water. can’t wait for our paths to cross again

  6. avatar
    Sheila M. Stolarski

    Clearly, it is not your time to leave this earth. I remember the gentleman you were and have fond memories from the Olympic gold celebration in Atlantic City…..best wishes to you and your precious family today and in the future. Godspeed!!
    Sheila Mortell Stolarski.

  7. avatar
    Cynthia Potter

    I and fellow divers thought the world of Bruce and his family. Praying for recovery and a good Easter!

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