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Olympic swimmer Bruce Furniss recovering in hospital after massive heart attack

From left, John Naber and Bruce Furniss announce the winner of Relay Performance of the Year during the 2017 USA Swimming Golden Goggle Awards  at L.A. Live on November 19, 2017, in Los Angeles.
From left, John Naber and Bruce Furniss announce the winner of Relay Performance of the Year during the 2017 USA Swimming Golden Goggle Awards at L.A. Live on Nov. 19, 2017, in Los Angeles.
(Kevork Dzansezian / Getty Images)

Former Olympic swimmer Bruce Furniss, who won two gold medals at the 1976 Summer Games in Montreal, remains hospitalized in Orange County but is recovering after suffering a major heart attack early Sunday morning.

According to a CaringBridge page set up by his family, Furniss, 62, was transported to St. Joseph’s Hospital in Orange, where he was placed in a medically-induced coma in the intensive care unit.

According to Furniss’ brother, Craig, doctors performed a “cool-down therapy” and then a “warm up” procedure early in the week, a process that is designed to protect the brain from the impact of the heart attack.

Furniss, a 1976 graduate of Santa Ana Foothill High School and a 1979 graduate of USC, was unresponsive to nurses on Tuesday. But by Wednesday he was awake, moving and tracking, and able to speak to his wife, Sharon, and kids on the phone. He continued to gain strength throughout the day and was taken off a ventilator.

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In his last journal post on Thursday, Craig Furniss wrote that Bruce had taken “a major turn for the better” and that doctors expect him to make a full recovery in a couple of weeks. Furniss began occupational and physical therapy on Thursday and is scheduled to undergo an angiogram on Monday.

Furniss, despite dealing with a sometimes debilitating arthritic condition in his back called ankylosing spondylitis, won an individual gold medal in the 200-meter freestyle and teamed with John Naber, Jim Montgomery and Mike Bruner on the gold-medal-winning 800 freestyle relay team.

The International Olympic Committee is not commenting on what might happen to the Olympic Games if the coronavirus remains a problem next year.

The Villa Park resident broke 10 world records and 19 American records, and won 11 AAU national titles and six NCAA event titles at USC. He was twice named World Swimmer of the Year by Swimming World Magazine, in 1975 and 1976.

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Furniss was inducted into the Orange County Sports Hall of Fame in 1984, the International Swimming Hall of Fame in 1987 and the USC Athletic Hall of Fame in 1987. He also participated in the Olympic torch relays in 1984, 1996 and 2004.

His older brother, Steve, was also a two-time Olympian and a bronze medalist at the 1972 Olympics in Munich.

Bruce Furniss, who graduated from USC’s Annenberg School for Communication with a journalism degree, has spent the last 17 years working as a senior director and broker associate with Berkadia Real Estate Advisors in Newport Beach.


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