A Player With Heart
By Matthew Schwartz
January 15, 2024
The next time you’re upset about your unforced error, your misplaced third shot drop, a weak serve or that easy put away that you put into the net, you might pause for a moment and think of Adam Bloomfield. Chances are you’ve never played pickleball with anyone like him.
Adam Bloomfield could have died…twice.
When he was four and a half he was given a 50-50 chance to survive cancer. A softball size growth was on his prostate. New chemotherapy drugs shrunk his prostate and the cancer was gone when he was six. A year later it came back and he again received chemo and radiation. His prostate was removed when he was eight.
“I’ve been cancer free ever since,” said the 41-year-old resident of Hendersonville, NC.
Bloomfield is an editor for reality TV shows. He works mostly now on Bar Rescue and also edited Married to Jonas, Deadliest Warrior, Barter Kings, My Cat from Hell and others.
If Bloomfield’s life story was pitched to a reality show producer, it would be rejected for being too unrealistic. Because thirty years after beating cancer, his heart failed. He needed a transplant.
On Thanksgiving weekend of 2020, Bloomfield, his fiancé, Gina Riecke, and his mother were hiking in Solvang, CA. They wanted to get out of the Covid lockdown. “During one of the hikes there, I really struggled,” he said. “But we passed it off as I just didn’t do enough cardio during lockdown, even though both Gina and my mother didn’t struggle at all.”
A few weeks later he did another hike with a friend. “Even though it was a very flat hike, the smallest hills took my breath away,” Bloomfield said. “But I was still able to do eight miles.”
Over the next ten days he developed a cough. Covid tests were negative. However, Bloomfield said, “By Christmas Eve, I couldn’t walk from the living room to the bathroom without losing my breath. I couldn’t sleep because my blood oxygen level kept dropping into the low 80’s or upper 70’s.” A normal blood oxygen level for adults is 95%-100%. Anything below 88% is a cause for concern.
“But we were all convinced it was Covid despite my continued negative tests,” he said. “Finally on New Year’s Eve I was sitting on the couch and my heart rate was 180 beats per minute.” (A normal resting heart rate for adults ranges from 60 to 100 beats per minute.) “That’s when we went to the ER.”
Bloomfield was hospitalized for several days. The diagnosis was heart failure. The echocardiogram showed his heart was operating at 15%. He was put on several drugs and released.
“But things didn’t get better,” Bloomfield said, “and towards the end of January 2021, I was told to start the process of getting on the heart transplant list. The last weekend of January things got bad enough that I went to the ER at Providence St. Joseph Medical Center in Burbank.”
Bloomfield was soon moved to the Cardiac ICU at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. He later learned that while at Providence he suffered multiple organ failures. “I was put into a medically induced coma,” he said. “The goal was to get me healthy enough to be put on the transplant list. I was also told that I would never leave that ICU until I had a new heart.”
By mid-February Bloomfield was at the top of the transplant list. “Right around noon on the 13th, I got ‘The Call’, where I was told a heart had been found for me. And the transplant was performed the next day, Valentine’s Day.”
He says he thought “how cool it would be to get a new heart on Valentine’s Day. But that quickly turned to the idea that me getting a new heart meant someone else would lose their loved one on or around Valentine’s Day. And that was just an awful and heartbreaking thought.”
Bloomfield says he was “a little” frightened but “the doctors and nurses at Cedars were so amazing that the fear wasn’t that strong. I trusted them. Most concerning was [the thought that] I’d never see my family again.”
While awaiting the transplant he felt totally isolated because no visitors were allowed due to the pandemic. Shortly before the operation he was allowed to see his fiancé and his mother. “That was really amazing,” he said.
He says doctors told him his heart failed because of the chemotherapy he received during his childhood cancer. “They said it wasn’t uncommon for people who had chemo in the late 80’s and early 90’s to have heart problems later. But I think what was rare was the speed at which my heart failed. From no problems at all before Thanksgiving 2020, to immediately needing a new heart by February of 2021.”
More than a year after the transplant Adam wanted to play tennis but didn’t feel he’d have the stamina to cover the court. A friend recommended pickleball. Adam and Gina moved from LA to Asheville because he wanted to live near the mountains, they love Lake Lure and Gina wanted to be closer to family in Indiana.
Like most of us who play, Adam fell hard and fast for pickleball. “One of the things I like most is the social community. I had exactly zero friends in Asheville from October of 2021 when I moved here to April of 2022 when I started playing. Within a month I had more friends than I possibly could have imagined. Just looking through my text messages it’s at least half pickleball people.”
He also loves the sport’s speed and strategy. “I love standing 14 feet away from someone and not knowing if they’re going to gently dink a ball your way or if they’re thinking of trying to take your head off,” he said.
Adam took lessons at the Asheville Racquet Club and now plays six times a week, splitting time there with the Brevard Health and Racquet Club. He says he feels great and has lost more than 40 pounds since starting pickleball (he’s 5’11, 195 pounds) and his stamina is much improved. Twenty-one months after playing, he says his DUPR (Dynamic Universal Pickleball Rating) is 4.230. For those of you unfamiliar with ratings, that’s really good.
Helen Hyatt has played with and against Bloomfield. “Adam is the best partner you could wish for,” she said. “He doesn’t fuss the small stuff and is always happy. Fun person to play with. It is a privilege to know him,” Hyatt said.
Adam takes a couple of precautions. He uses a smart ring and smart watch to track his heart rate. He’s immunocompromised due to the transplant, especially susceptible to skin cancer. He has to be completely covered when playing outside so he wears spf clothing and a hoodie. “It doesn’t matter if it’s 100 degrees, I play with my hood up if I’m outdoors,” he said. “One of the guys I play with regularly has admitted that the first time he met me he thought I was an ass- - - - out to intimidate everyone else by playing with my hood up, hat on, sunglasses and even gloves. But he later learned why I dress that way.”
When he was fighting childhood cancer, his parents joined a support group. It was there that he met a young girl who had leukemia. They went to a summer camp each year for a decade and Adam became best friends with her brother. At her brother’s wedding in 2008 Adam reconnected with that woman, the one who had leukemia as a two-year old. That woman is Gina, now his fiancé.
(Adam and his fiancé, Gina Riecke)
Adam’s three-year checkup is next month. “I’m looking forward to it,” he said. “I don’t expect any issues at all. I’d like to lose a little more weight, but I feel fantastic.”
The next time I make an unforced error on the pickleball court (and I make plenty), I will try to remember how unimportant that is in the big picture. I will try to think of Adam Bloomfield.