The weather was unseasonably warm for December in Danville, and Historic North Theatre owner Wayne Alan wanted to take advantage of the opportunity to hit the tennis court.
Some symptoms raised red flags, but the suspicion something was wrong did not stop Alan from jumping on the running list of to-do’s around the historical theater, even getting on the roof to fix leaks.
The only thought that crossed Alan’s mind was “How is this possible?”
Little did the magician and performer know he had suffered two heart attacks. Not only was the future of the Danville landmark in question, Alan’s own life momentarily was on the line.
On Dec. 3, Alan suffered a heart attack. After a chat with a friend who was a doctor, he decided to pay more attention to the signals from his body.
“I ended up just relaxing, took a shower, and went to bed. Got up the next morning and worked all day,” Alan explained. “At six o’clock I had another heart attack.”
Driving himself to the emergency room, Alan still assumed the best case scenario and predicted an in-and-out treatment. He immediately was added to the emergency open heart surgery list, and in six days Alan’s heart had five blockages cleared.
“I was thinking a quick stent and I’d play tennis the next morning,” Alan said with chuckle. “Originally when it first happened I didn’t tell anybody in town because I was hoping to just get a quick stent.”
A full calendar of December events, including popular ones for the Christmas holiday, were cancelled due to his medical state. His daughter flew in from New Jersey to take care of him. Additionally, his brother and sister-in-law from Richmond joined the family to offer assistance.
“They told me I would be out of work probably three months,” Alan stated.
In addition to running a mostly a one-man operation, Alan keeps up a regular physical activity routine, including tennis and walking around the North Main Street neighborhood he and the theater call home. He does not smoke and has kept a strict pescatarian diet for decades.
Doctors ultimately suggested it was a genetic cause behind the shocking incident. It was his active and healthy lifestyle that perhaps helped him get back on his feet faster than expected.
“I’ve had a pretty amazing recovery. Everybody is pretty amazed at how fast I’ve come,” he commented. “They say I’m the only patient they’ve seen walk out of the [Intensive Care Unit] to my cardiac ward room.”
North Theatre board member Mary Lou Hall said she and the rest of the board were incredibly shocked to hear of Alan’s surgery. Yet they did not plan for any replacement for Alan, fully expecting his prompt recovery.
“That was a complete surprise to everybody. Of all the people I know he would probably be the last one I would suspect of a heart attack,” Hall commented. “We on the board are delighted he’s able to return and be active again.”
By the first week of January, Alan was back in his residence but did not get into work affairs, avoiding opening his email inbox until a month later. Already Alan has cooked up new ideas that excite the board.
“He’s exploring some new avenues of work for him and the theater. He has some great plans and I hope he can get them to materialize,” Hall added.
Slowly but surely, Alan could not stay away from the hustle of the theater. By March, events were being produced in the historic theater space.
“I’ve decided to double down. I’ve got 35 shows booked for the rest of the year,” Alan said.
Before the heart attacks, Alan put in at least 60 hours a week, pulling together an array of shows while marketing within the community. Now he is working about 50 hours a week.
“I’m looking to do things smarter,” he said. “I am trying to be a bit more efficient and work wiser and smarter and try to give more jobs out to people who work part time for me.”
Having the medical emergency has inspired Alan to consider how much stress and strain his work puts on his health. Having to recall from memory the status of bill payments, budgets and performers to his family while hospitalized emphasized that Alan was weighed down with too much work.
Nonetheless, Alan is striving to book exciting acts for the theater, from a local music favorite to dinner theater to professional ballet. He is considering a cinema fan club for special movie viewings and discussions. He also wants to find a way to reward his regular ticket holders with special status.
“I may be instead of easing up, maybe I’m giving myself more work here as I’m reviewing everything,” Alan joked. “It’s either going to keep me young or it’s going to kill me. Maybe it was trying to kill me but because it was keeping me in pretty good shape I was able to survive.”
Other than a sore chest and a little less stamina, Alan insists he is the same as before the incident. Judging by his enthusiasm for what is next for the Historic North Theatre, Alan definitely is back to his old tricks with all the magic of making sure the show goes on.