If life wasn’t perfect, it seemed close enough for Jay and Krista Bates.
They were both educators — she a Puyallup junior high principal, he a high school teacher. They were parents of a son, Connor, and daughter, Emma.
And they were runners.
“I was training for a half-marathon in 2009, had run 10 miles two days earlier,” Krista said. “Jay went for a run, I was putting the dishes away and started to feel sick to my stomach.
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“I went upstairs and had this nausea, found it tough to breathe, had a crushing feeling on my chest. I kept thinking, it can’t be a heart attack. I’m only 41. There’s no history of heart problems in my family …”
She called a neighbor, Amy Littleton, told her what she was feeling and asked if it could be a panic attack.
Littleton told her it was a heart attack, hung up and called an ambulance.
Jay was running when a fire truck passed him. Then a friend pulled his car alongside and told him to get in.
“When I saw Krista, she was in terrible distress,” Jay said. “The paramedics showed up, and they were calm but urgent. My whole world view changed.
“I’m thinking, ‘What do I tell the kids? How do I prepare for the worst?’”
Krista had an artery to her heart 99 percent blocked, needed and received a stent. She came home after five days.
“Before, I’d been running up to 10 miles, but when I got home I couldn’t walk the length of my driveway,” she said. “I told my doctors my goal was to run three miles within 12 weeks and they laughed at me.”
“I’m goal-oriented. I ran five miles at end of my rehab.”
Still, there were emotions to deal with — for the whole family.
“I was angry because I’d worked so hard to be fit, and then this happened,” Krista said.
“We been proactive, eating well, exercising, but no matter how much you prepare, there’s no way to stop it,” he said. “The doctors told us, ‘There’s no family history until there is …’ ”
The Bates family tried to make the best of it. Krista returned to Ballou Junior High School, Jay to Emerald Ridge High School.
In 2013, he and the kids put together the “Run 4 Her Heart” 5K race in Puyallup.
“We wanted to bring awareness to the community, turn this into a positive,” Jay said. “It became a family-friendly event, and when people started asking after the race about the next one, I knew we’d have to make it an annual event.”
It’s now been run three times.
Krista says life after a heart attack means never taking a rainbow or sunset for granted.
“Every morning when we wake up, the first thing Jay says is ‘I love you,’ ” she said.
The kids got involved in long-distance running and last December the family was logging about 150 miles a week.
Then Krista had a second heart attack.
“We were all at the YMCA, and Jay and Connor had gone for a run,” Krista said. “Emma was running on the indoor track, and I suddenly felt the same symptoms I’d felt in 2009.”
Jay had begun running with his cellphone. Krista called him, then flagged Emma down. Together, the two waited by the door.
“I had Connor drive Emma home and took Krista to the hospital. This time, I knew exactly what to expect, what they’d do,” Jay said.
“It’s not a learning curve you want to experience, because you’re still not able to do anything. The lack of control drove me nuts.”
This time, doctors told Krista, the heart attack was minor. That wasn’t completely reassuring.
“I wanted to know why this was happening to me, and that’s still a mystery,” Krista said. “All the reasons people have heart attacks didn’t really fit me, with the possible exception of stress.”
On Tuesday, Krista and Jay Bates will be at Tacoma’s Museum of Glass together for the American Heart Association’s annual Go Red For Women Luncheon. He will be the guest speaker, she the guest of honor, four months after her second heart attack.
Krista, 47, is back at work, though her running has become power-walking — because of her knees, not her heart.
Jay, 48, will speak Tuesday about a change in their lifestyle.
“My dad believed his work day ended when he got home. I started wondering after Krista’s second heart attack if I could help alleviate stress,” he said. “I’m trying to share more of what she has always done at home after work.
“Maybe I do laundry, or cook or clean. I don’t know that I ever thought about that before, but when you realize how much your wife means to you, perspective changes.”