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Hendry aims to reunite with life-saving doctor

Former Cubs GM reflects on trip to hospital during '06 Meetings
MLB.com

Next week, when Jim Hendry is back in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., for baseball's Winter Meetings, he's going to try to contact the man who saved his life 11 years ago, Dr. J.

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Next week, when Jim Hendry is back in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., for baseball's Winter Meetings, he's going to try to contact the man who saved his life 11 years ago, Dr. J.

Hot Stove Tracker

In December 2006, Dr. Pradipkumar Jamnadas -- who told Hendry to call him "Dr. J" -- performed an emergency angioplasty on the then Cubs general manager, who didn't let the life-threatening situation stop him from signing free-agent left-hander Ted Lilly while on a gurney.

"The guy saved my life," Hendry said this week about Jamnadas. "Before I got there, the residents said, 'You don't know how lucky you are. This guy is on call four days a month and he's the best in this hospital by far.'"

The 62-year-old Hendry, who is now a special assistant to Yankees general manager Brian Cashman, is very thankful.

A little background: The Cubs finished last in the National League Central in 2006 and Hendry was busy revamping the roster before the Meetings. Lou Piniella was named the new manager in early November, and the Cubs then went on a spending spree, signing Aramis Ramirez to a five-year, $73 million deal, Mark DeRosa to a three-year, $13 million contract, and both Kerry Wood and Henry Blanco. The big splash came when the Cubs inked Alfonso Soriano to an eight-year, $136 million deal.

Going into the Winter Meetings, which were held at the same hotel they will be at next week, the Cubs were targeting Lilly, who also was being pursued by the Yankees.

On the first day, Hendry had some discomfort in his chest, but shrugged it off. He munched on antacid tablets like they were candy. The next day, the Cubs team physician, Dr. Stephen Adams, examined Hendry, but the general manager downplayed the problem.

Hendry was to introduce Tim Wilken at the Scout of the Year banquet, but Piniella and others in the Cubs' front office finally convinced the GM to go to a local hospital. Hendry said no to an ambulance, so Piniella drove him, along with Scott Nelson, who was the Cubs' director of baseball operations at the time.

Hendry underwent an EKG, and thought that was it. He got dressed and made some phone calls, but the doctor wanted to do another EKG. Hendry offered to come back the next morning. The doctor said the GM might not make it to the next day.

O'Brien, unaware of what was happening, called Hendry, who was still on the gurney, hooked up to the EKG machine. Hendry said the Cubs' final offer for Lilly was four years and $40 million. O'Brien's response: "We've got a deal."

"I don't know why to this day I was hooked up on the gurney and had the phone in my hand," Hendry said this week, recalling the incident. "The story is more heroic than reality. I did not know when I took the phone call from Larry O'Brien that I was going to have this potentially life or death surgery an hour later 30 miles away."

Still on the gurney, Hendry wanted to welcome Lilly to the Cubs and called the pitcher -- but didn't say where he was. Lilly, now a special assistant to Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein, did find out later.

Hendry was taken to another hospital 30 miles away. While he was in the ambulance with Nelson, Hendry called some of the Cubs' staff, giving instructions on what to do during the Rule 5 Draft. The paramedic accompanying them suggested Hendry might want to call family members.

"He said, 'You better call the people you love instead of the people you work with,'" Hendry said.

Hendry did contact his daughter Lauren and son John, who were 10 and 8 at the time, and told them that they may see something on the news about him but it was not a big deal and their dad was going to be fine. The kids were supposed to meet their father in Orlando after the Winter Meetings.

"[Lauren] said, 'Dad, does that mean we're not going to Disney World?'" Hendry said, laughing now at his daughter's response.

When Hendry got to the hospital, he met Jamnadas, a cardiologist, who did the angioplasty and inserted four stents. Dr. J did great. Hendry said when he goes for his checkups now, the staff says it's as if he never had a heart attack.

"Truthfully, I've never had one day since then that I've had a twinge in my heart or discomfort, or 'I better get this checked' or think, 'Here we go again,'" Hendry said. "They were right -- looking back, he did a phenomenal job."

By the way, Hendry didn't waste his rehab time. While he was intensive care, the Cubs reached an agreement on a three-year, $21 million deal with Jason Marquis.

Carrie Muskat has covered the Cubs since 1987, and for MLB.com since 2001. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings, and you can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat.