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Tom Tolbert undergoes emergency heart surgery

The former Wildcat plans to return to radio in two weeks

Photo by Glenn James/Getty Images

Former Arizona Wildcat and current Bay Area radio host Tom Tolbert recently underwent emergency heart surgery last week to repair a thoracic aortic aneurysm, he announced Wednesday on KNBR in a prerecorded statement.

Last Tuesday, Tolbert, 51, was about to sit on the couch to watch baseball when both of his temples started hurting. Then his shoulders. Then his upper chest and lower throat.

“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.’’ he said. “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.”

Tolbert’s wife drove him to a hospital where he went through a variety of tests before being speeded over in an ambulance to a different hospital in Palo Alto.

That’s where he was told he would be having heart surgery.

“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,” he said.

It was certainly a scary moment for Tolbert, who played two seasons at the UA in the late 1980s, but he said he plans to return to the air in two weeks.

“No promises. Should be good to go,” he said. “Again, no promises.”