Why morning star Eric Ferguson feels lucky to be alive

June 30, 2010

Four months after experiencing a health scare that nearly killed him, Chicago radio morning star Eric Ferguson says his latest checkup showed "everything's great." But he might not have been so lucky if he hadn't acted when he did.

So now the host of the top-rated "Eric & Kathy Show" on Bonneville International hot adult-contemporary WTMX-FM (101.9) is on a mission to encourage others to seek medical care at the first sign of trouble. In an interview Tuesday on WTTW-Channel 11's "Chicago Tonight," Ferguson told Phil Ponce:

"If your body is reacting in a way that isn't normal and that causes you some level of discomfort or some level of concern, it's time to get it checked. Because I was a guy that almost waited too long and ignored it, and thankfully my body sent me a real strong signal that it was time to go in and get it looked at. . . .‚  More often than not, if your body is sending you those signals, there's a reason behind it."

Ferguson, 43, was hospitalized twice earlier this year for treatment of an irregular heart rhythm. In each case, the warning signs were fluttering feelings in his chest and an erratic heart beat. Both times he underwent a catheter ablation procedure to destroy the abnormal heart tissue that apparently was causing his cardiac arrhythmia.

"When you're faced with a life-threatening crisis like I was, and you have to tackle these things head on, you think, 'All right, well how much is this thing going to hurt?' " he told Ponce. "The amazing thing about all this is it was virtually painless. The next day I was up, moving around, walking. I played golf two days afterwards. Felt great."

Three weeks later, Ferguson had to undergo the procedure for a second time, which apparently corrected the problem for good. A final checkup two weeks ago confirmed the good news: "While they can never guarantee anything, [the doctor] said this is the last time that we'll need to see you unless something like this were to come back again. But for all intents and purposes, they gave me a clean bill of health."

Although he still comes off as witty and carefree as ever on The Mix morning show he's hosted for 14 years, there's no doubt that Ferguson has been profoundly affected by the life-and-death ordeal:

"I really thought I would be the last guy in the world to have this happen to them. The interesting thing is a lot of my buddies have said the same thing: 'We thought it would happen to us before it would happen to you.' . . . I've heard from more than a hundred people who've had similar circumstances and who felt the same way I did and said: 'I ignored it. I didn't pay any attention to it.' You can just tell when something's not right. . . . I almost put it off too long. What I'm trying to say to everybody is if you feel that something is not right, you need to go for a checkup -- whether you're a big baby like me or not --  because your body is trying to tell you something."

When it was over, Ferguson said, his wife asked the doctor how close he'd come to dying. "The doctor said: 'He probably had two days. About two more days.' That's a real sobering thing to hear when someone tells you that. . . . Thankfully we got it corrected and fixed, and I'm sitting here today."

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