Three years ago, Clinton resident Jordan Keshler suffered a stroke and was in 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 Barker Brook golf course superintendent wondered how much longer he could hold out.
But a year later, Keshler got a heart transplant. From this Friday through Sunday, he boards the Pinehurst Resort in North Carolina. The Round of a Lifetime Foundation is paying all of Keshler’s travel expenses to the Tar Heel state.
“It’s surreal, something I expected but didn’t know 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. Igo said the purpose of the foundation is “to provide the opportunity for congenital heart disease sufferers and their loved ones to play an unforgettable game of golf on a world-class course.”
Keshler fits that bill. However, he originally approached Igo just to thank him for the establishment’s mission.
“We encourage you to apply,” Igo said. “Once he applied, we needed to find something to make his trip special.”
Typically, the foundation allows for a round of golf at a world-renowned site, but for Keshler, it added more. Keshler and three friends will stay at the resort for the weekend and play on the many courses it offers, including the famous No. 2 course, which has hosted three US Opens. The resort, located 70 miles south of Raleigh, has 11 courses in all.
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Golf runs with the family
Keshler, a Mohawk Valley native, has been golfing since he was five years old. While he was 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 his last two years and placed in the top 10 of New York State Amateurs.
He traveled south to coastal Carolina for college, not expecting a career in 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 field due to his father’s heart problems. Keshler stayed 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 man.
Specialists hoped that Keshler would regain strength after the surgery, but he did not. As a result, he was fitted with a defibrillator pacemaker, in case his heart failed.
From 2012 to 2018, Keshler lived her life normally, even with a weakened heart.
That changed the day the defibrillator shocked him at Barker Brook.
“I was walking down the street and it felt like someone had thrown a basketball and hit me in the chest,” he said. “I had no warning, he just hit me and knocked me to the ground. I stood up and he 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 battery power 24 hours a day,” he said. “I had batteries in my pockets, I added 10 kilos. I had a line running from the batteries through my stomach to the pump in my heart.”
Keshler couldn’t shower for a year or play golf. However, he continued to work at Barker Brook.
Strong Memorial estimated that he would receive a new heart in two to four years. She sought out support groups when she learned about a new clinical trial at Massachusetts General Hospital.
The trial, led 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 quickly recovered. By June, he was back on the golf course. The average life expectancy for a transplanted heart is 20 years, so Keshler expects new technology to emerge within the next two decades.
For now, she tries not to worry about it and focus on being there for her young daughter.
“You don’t want to leave them without a father,” he said. “My father died six months after the LVAD was implanted and I want to keep 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 protected]