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Tom Tolbert shares why he’s been off-air for a week



“What iiiiiiiiiiis…shakin.”

If you’re a frequent KNBR listener, you’ve probably noticed the absence of Tom Tolbert from your airwaves for the past week. Today he wanted to share why.

Tuesday, August 29 Tom was rushed to the Stanford University Medical Center to undergo an emergency surgery for a Thoracic Artery Aneurysm. Tom sent us a message to share with listeners and tell the story of what happened. (You can listen to that 10-minute call in it’s entirety at the bottom of this page.)

“At the risk there may be a few people out there wondering, ‘What the hell? How come Tom wasn’t there last Wednesday. And how come it’s start of football season and Tom’s not there now?” Tolbert said in his prerecorded message. “No, Len didn’t kidnap me. He didn’t kidnap me and take me up to the woods somewhere and paint a cabin or anything like that.

“Tuesday night and just doing my normal stuff, go to watch some baseball and sit down on the couch, and as I was going to sit down on the couch for whatever reason my temple started hurting…but they both started hurting simultaneously. And I thought, ‘God that’s weird.’ And then my shoulder blades started hurting. Simultaneously. Alright. And then my upper chest and lower throat started hurting. And that’s when I thought, ‘OK, let’s get on good ole’ Google and check out heart attack and see what those symptoms are like.’ That’s the first thing you think of. My dad’s a veteran of many heart wars. So I looked and it was like ok you’re supposed to have a clenched fist, tightness…and I didn’t really have that. It was more of a dull pain.

“So I stayed down there 20 minutes, probably 25 minutes, you know. On my back. On my chest. On my side. Walking around. Nothing helped. So then I did something, in one of my smarter moments – which doesn’t happen all that often, I went up and asked my wife Lorrie who was sleeping at the time…I told her I said, ‘I don’t feel good. There’s something wrong with me.’ And she obviously knows that I don’t do that very often so she was startled and taken aback and got up and wiped her eyes and looked at me and I said, ‘I don’t know, this is weird. I’ve never felt anything quite like this before I don’t know what to tell you here. It hurts.’ And I was profusely sweating, it was a little scary.”

Lorrie then took Tom to the hospital.

“There was nobody there,” Tolbert said. “Like…two people there. I don’t know maybe somebody had a lighter burn, I don’t know. But it was relatively quiet. I just went up there and said, ‘I need to see somebody.’ I can’t imagine how I looked (laughs). I didn’t look all that good. I had a bad t-shirt on, bad shorts, Under Armour slides, mismatched socks. I think maybe they just looked at me and said, ‘Let’s get this guy in. Let’s get this guy in pronto. Get him in here immediately. Don’t open your mouth sir. I’ve seen the way you put yourself together. Let’s get you in here.’

“So they got me in there and ran through a battery of tests. EKG, CAT Scan, C-Scan, X-Ray. I’m there for probably two hours, two and a half hours. And the on-call emergency room doctor was very very nice. She said we need to get you down to Stanford or…we’re going to find a hospital for you. We’re going to try to get you to Stanford and see if Stanford’s available. We need to get you to an operating room right now.’

“And I remember that was like when I was like…that’ll sober you up. Real quick. Like, we’re not going to send you over there for observation, we’re sending you over there to be operated on period.

“So…I had that going for me. Which wasn’t nice. At all. So waited for another half an hour, was put in the back of an ambulance. One of those speedy-care ambulances or whatever…the ones that can go like 1,000 miles an hour. It was a pretty kick-ass ride though, gotta be honest with you. I didn’t like facing out the back. But 2 a.m., one of those things, yeah we were going. That was probably the best time of the night right there.

When Tom got to Palo Alto, they told him the would be operating on him because of a thoracic artery aneurism.

“So anyway, on the table,” Tolbert said. “And six hours later, boom. I wake up. I found out all this news, what had happened. And how close you had come to shaking hands with the real grim reaper. ‘How ya doin. Nice to meet ya.’ It was a little sobering…little sobering. I gotta admit.

“So, wake up in the recovery room, and they just break it down for you. Here’s what happened, here’s how it happened, and no one knows exactly why it happened. Could be genetics. My dad had to deal with a lot of that stuff when he was growing up. Who knows.

“But I just wanted to let you know that that’s why I’ve been gone the last week. So yeah, it was something. And for me, I don’t want to say I had the easy part but I was able to sleep for a lot of it. And I wasn’t awake for a lot of it. And my wife, and my kids, and my family, and my friends, they’re the ones that had to go through a few hours of holy bleep. And then another day of that. And then another day of that. So, it’s been a little bit of a run here. Little bit of a run. Just want to let you guys know that I should be back in a couple of weeks, hopefully. No promises. Should be good to go. Again, no promises.

“I was going to thank everybody, I’ll thank everybody when I get back. Everybody that needs to be thanked I’ve already thanked. At the station, you know who you are. All my family and friends, my wife Lorrie, everybody. It was great. I can’t wait to get back.”

Get well Mr. T.