Three years ago, Clinton resident Jordan Keshler suffered a stroke and went into a coma for two days.
Keshler worsened during a procedure to implant a left ventricular assist device (LVAD) at Strong Memorial Hospital in Rochester. In the months that followed, the 41-year-old superintendent of Barker Brook Golf Course wondered how much longer he could hold out.
But, a year later, Keshler got a heart transplant. From this Friday to Sunday, he is attacking the Pinehurst Resort in North Carolina. The Round of a Lifetime Foundation pays for all expenses for Keshler’s trip to the Tar Heel State.
“It’s surreal, something I had hoped for but didn’t know if it would ever happen,” he said. “It will be great to be able to walk where legends have walked before and see their perspective.”
Dan Igo, chief content officer for Round of a Lifetime, and eight others founded the foundation in 2010 to honor a friend who died of congenital heart failure at age 24. congenital heart disease and their loved ones to play an unforgettable round of golf on a world-class course.
Keshler fits this bill. However, he first contacted Igo just to thank him for the establishment’s mission.
“We encouraged him to apply,” Igo said. “Once he applied, we had to come up with something to make his trip special.”
Usually, the foundation allows a round of golf at a world-famous site, but for Keshler, it added more. Keshler and three friends will stay at the resort for the weekend and play the multiple courses it offers, including the famous No. 2 course, which has hosted three US Opens. The resort, located 70 miles south of Raleigh, offers 11 courses in total.
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Keshler, a Mohawk Valley native, has been playing golf since he was five years old. Growing up, his family owned the Barker Brook Golf Club in Oriskany Falls.
He played competitive golf for Waterville High School, where he competed in the States for the past two years and landed in the New York State amateur top 10.
He marched south to Coastal Carolina for college, not expecting a career on the links. However, when he returned to Oneida County in 2003, his family still controlled the club.
“It was inevitable with the family business that I would come back to work here,” he said.
A year later, his family sold the course due to his father’s heart problems. Keshler remained on staff.
In 2012, Keshler collapsed while visiting his father who was recovering from LVAD implant surgery at Tampa General Memorial.
A clot developed in his heart and doctors immediately performed open-heart surgery on the then 32-year-old.
Specialists hoped that Keshler would regain strength after his operation, but he did not. As a result, a pacemaker defibrillator was built into him, in case his heart gave out.
From 2012 to 2018, Keshler lived life normally, even with a weak heart.
That changed the day the defibrillator electrocuted him at Barker Brook.
“I was walking down the fairway and it felt like someone was throwing a basketball and hitting me in the chest,” he said. “I got no warning, he just kicked me and threw me to the ground. I got up and it hit me again.
Strong’s doctors decided to insert an LVAD into Keshler. An LVAD pumped blood for Keshler because his heart wasn’t strong enough.
“I was on batteries 24 hours a day,” he said. “I had stacks in my pockets, it added 10 pounds to me. I had a line from the stacks through my stomach to the pump in my heart.
Keshler couldn’t shower for a year or play golf. He continued to work at Barker Brook, however.
Strong Memorial estimated that he would receive a new heart in two to four years. He sought out support groups when he heard about a new clinical trial at Massachusetts General Hospital.
The trial, conducted by Transmedic, attempts to make it easier for patients to receive a heart by placing it in a special box.
After waiting four days, Keshler’s wife, Sonya, received a call. On February 11, 2020, Keshler received a new heart.
Due to his young age and good health, Keshler recovered quickly. In June, he was back on the golf course. The average life expectancy of a transplanted heart is 20 years, so Keshler hopes new technologies will emerge over the next two decades.
For now, he tries not to care and concentrates on the presence of his young daughter.
“You don’t want to leave them without a father,” he said. “My dad passed away six months after his LVAD was implanted, and I want to stay for her.”
Donations can be made to Round of a Lifetime at https://roundofalifetime.org/donate.
Noah Ram is a sports reporter for the Observer-Dispatch. Email Noah Ram at email@example.com.