How Hub Arkush’s life was saved after heart attack

On Thursday, four months to the day, Arkush returned to his syndicated “Pro Football Weekly” TV show for a brief appearance to thank everyone in the audience who sent well-wishes.

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Hub Arkush on the set Thursday at NBC Sports Chicago’s studios for the recording of “Pro Football Weekly.”

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After being silenced for weeks, the voice sounded like it always had — smooth and soft, calming and pleasant.

And confident. Definitely confident.

“I could do the radio [regularly] now if I wanted to,” said Hub Arkush, The Score’s longtime Bears and NFL analyst, “but the therapists are really careful and they don’t want me to do that yet. So I figure, I’ve gotten this far, I’m going to do what they tell me to do.”

On Aug. 15, Arkush left Halas Hall midday after a training-camp practice. On the way to his car, about 200 yards from the building, he collapsed.

He had suffered a heart attack that would hospitalize him for about five weeks, require a seven-hour surgery and put him in a rehabilitation center for about three weeks.

On Thursday, four months to the day, Arkush returned to his syndicated “Pro Football Weekly” TV show for a brief appearance to thank everyone in the audience who sent well wishes. It will air at 5:30 p.m. Friday on NBC Sports Chicago. He’ll call in for a segment on The Score at 5 p.m. Friday.

But what matters most is he’s here.

“Physically, I’m pretty close to fine,” said Arkush, 69. “They’re still working on the mental. My memory is kind of a mess. The bottom line is that it was pretty ugly for a while but it’s going good now, hopefully toward a full recovery. We’ll see what happens.”

* * * * * *

John Tarpey, the Bears’ vice president of security, was standing on a practice field when he heard on his radio that someone was down in front of Halas Hall. He jumped in his cart and sped off to see.

He rolled the person over and saw it was Arkush, who had no pulse. Tarpey, who was in law enforcement for 24 years before joining the Bears in 2015, had performed CPR on many people but never on someone he knew. He and Arkush are friends. They’ve chatted on practice fields many times.

Tarpey gave chest compressions, then opened Arkush’s airway. He sent one of his crewmen to get the defibrillator. That person raced off in the cart and, without stopping, caught the device on a perfect pass from another person.

“Those things are amazing,” Tarpey said, “and more than me or anybody else, the defib probably saved the man’s life.”

Tarpey continued with chest compressions, screaming “C’mon, Hub,” over and over. The Lake Forest Fire Department arrived, and by the time Arkush was loaded into the ambulance, he had a pulse. Tarpey had given him CPR for about 20 minutes.

“There was a lot of people that day taking care of Hub,” he said. “I’ve got a great staff. The Bears’ security and the people around us, everybody jumped in.”

A couple of weeks ago, Arkush called Tarpey to thank him. Tarpey appreciated the gesture but downplayed his role, saying many other people contributed and he was no hero. Some might disagree.

“I’m grateful that he was where he was when it happened,” said Arkush’s son Arthur, “because if he wasn’t, I hear that this story wouldn’t have had the same ending.”

* * * * * *

Arthur, the middle of three siblings (Billy and Taylor), was named for Arkush’s father, Arthur, who died of a heart attack in his early 50s. While his father slowly recuperated at Northwestern Memorial Hospital, son Arthur filled in for him on the “Pro Football Weekly” show.

“That part of it was actually really a nice distraction, a needed distraction,” Arthur said. “It really helped me a lot.”

That’s because the family was riding an emotional roller coaster. The situation was touch and go for a while. Doctors had to delay heart surgery for four weeks. After they did it, they were confident Arkush was going to make it.

“I don’t remember a thing about being in the hospital,” Arkush said. “They say it’s common to not remember. I don’t really care to know, to be honest with you.”

Arkush’s recovery continued at Shirley Ryan AbilityLab, where his memory began to kick in. When he returned to his Tower Lakes home, he couldn’t do anything for 10 days. Then he began the outpatient program, which had him visiting three days a week for three hours a day, working on physical, cognitive and speech therapy.

He dropped the physical therapy a couple of weeks ago and is back to walking his two dogs 4-5 miles a day.

“The only one that really matters to me anyway is the speech therapy because I’ll have my memory back eventually,” Arkush said. “Physically, there’s some occasional pain from stuff that’s healing, but it’s not terrible. I’m in a really good place right now.

“The only hard thing, I’m probably the least patient person you’ve ever met. This requires a ton of patience, and I don’t have it.”

* * * * * *

The first Bears game Arkush watched this season was the hideous 12-7 loss to the Commanders on Oct. 13.

“The football came back to me immediately,” he said. “My memory with people, with some business things, even with some family, it’s just embarrassingly bad. But the football part, other than not knowing a lot of this year’s new players, that was all pretty much back to normal.”

“We’ve watched three or four games together, which has been nice,” Arthur said. “I don’t think his unique knowledge of football has dissipated at all. When you sit with him, you can tell that he knows who’s winning the line of scrimmage, who’s making the right coaching decisions.”

Arkush likes what he has seen from quarterback Justin Fields, but he’s looking for more from him as a passer.

“If I had to vote, I’d say he’s going to be a pretty good quarterback,” Arkush said, “but I don’t think it’s going to be until the middle or toward the end of next year, and there’s going to be some pain before he gets there.”

Oddly enough, the same could be said for Arkush. A close friend of his who’s a cardiologist told him, realistically, it will be a full year before Arkush feels 100%. As long as he can get back to talking about the Bears and the NFL again, he’ll take it.

And as appreciative as he is for all his well-wishers, that goes double for his wife, Candace, and kids.

“I would love for people to know that I hope they never go through this,” Arkush said, “but if they do, they need to be aware that it is as hard or harder on their family as it is on them. And I’ve learned that an important part is to know that and to try to be helpful in whatever way I can.”

Remote patrol

The Blackhawks’ game Friday against the Wild will air on ESPN+ and Hulu. Leah Hextall, Cassie Campbell Pascall and Emily Kaplan will call it. The game Sunday against the Rangers will air on ESPN with Mike Monaco, Ryan Callahan and Kaplan on the call.

NFL regional games airing Sunday in the Chicago market: Eagles at Bears, noon, Fox-32 (Joe Davis, Daryl Johnston); Lions at Jets, noon, Ch. 2 (Ian Eagle, Charles Davis); Bengals at Buccaneers, 3:25 p.m., Ch. 2 (Jim Nantz, Tony Romo).

Jason Benetti will fill in for Adam Amin on NBC Sports Chicago’s broadcast of the Bulls-Timberwolves game Sunday, when Amin will be calling Falcons-Saints for Fox.

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