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Buddy Simpson is back in the sulky
Monday, November 26, 2012 - by Timothy M. Jones, USTA Web Newsroom Senior Correspondent

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Rochester, IL --- “Dad had not been feeling right for a little while early this year,” Springfield, Ill., based trainer Dirk Simpson recalled about his father Buddy’s health. “But he just attributed it to a bout of fatigue because of his age.

“He was harnessing a horse in his barn at home, got dizzy, and fell unconscious to the ground.”

Buddy’s wife Dorris, and son and neighbor Clay, rushed the elder Simpson to the emergency room at Memorial Hospital in nearby Fairfield, Ill. The patriarch’s heart was skipping beats -- an arrhythmia thought to be caused by an electrolyte imbalance, or electrical short circuit.

Buddy Simpson has 1,078 career wins and purse earnings of $2.28 million.

From Fairfield, Buddy was rushed by ambulance to Deaconness Gateway Hospital in Evansville, Ind. Dr. Nathan Reed, a cardiologist with The Heart Group, found that Buddy needed a pacemaker to assist his malfunctioning heart in maintaining a normal rhythm.

“I didn’t have a heart attack,” explained Buddy. “There was no heart damage. The doctor told me my heart was skipping beats and that’s what caused me to feel lightheaded and dizzy -- what made me go limp and fall in the barn that morning.

“I’m a pretty solid Christian. I trust the Lord in pretty much everything I do. That’s just the way I went into it.

“The procedure didn’t really seem scary to me. They gave me a local anesthetic; I was awake the entire time. I could hear everyone in the operating room talking.”

Dr. Reed implanted Simpson’s chest with the latest device in pacemaker technology -- “experimental”, Buddy said.

Two wires were run through vessels, one attached to the top, the other attached to the bottom of his heart. The actual device rests in a small pouch under the skin in the left side of his chest.

“I don’t even know it’s there unless I feel for it, or bump it. I feel just as good now, or even better, than I did 10 years ago.

“The only restrictions, Dr. Reed explained to me, were to take it easy for at least seven days, and also not to use the electric welder I have on the farm. My pacemaker isn’t like the older models that would cause problems in an airport, or not allow the use of a microwave. They can check how it’s functioning over the phone.

“I did have to return to Evansville recently to have the pacemaker 'desensitized.' But I feel great now!”

Timothy M. Jones photos
Freshman trotting colt Accokeek Mercury hit the board in 13 of 17 starts for Buddy Simpson in 2012 and banked $49,523.

The 82-years-young Simpson returned to training his stock with renewed vigor over the half-mile track at his rural Fairfield farm following his seven day “break.” He had no anxiety, nor worry at all about returning to work fitted with the pacemaker. He rarely thinks about it. Buddy was more anxious to climb back in the jog cart or race bike, training and racing horses in the sport he loves.

“There were no worries climbing back in the race bike,” he laughed, “it felt natural to me. I had trained our colts all winter long. I knew them pretty well.”

Simpson returned to the race bike “officially” in a qualifier at the Illinois State Fairgrounds in Springfield June 9, and has kept on going like an Energizer Bunny with a set of newly charged batteries.

Buddy’s wife of 58 years and “Guardian Angel,” Dorris, consistently reminds him to take it easy, but the yellow caution light doesn’t seem to be working. The electric welder will need a thorough dusting off someday also.

“I’ve been racing horses all summer just like always,” laughed Simpson.

Indeed he has. Buddy’s 61 starts in 2012 are second in this century only to the 95 he had in 2004. His son Clay has done the majority of the paddocking and hauling stock. He then hands the lines to his Dad when called to the track.

Of those 61 starts behind the gate, 13 were winners. In 10, he arrived to the finish line second and 13 more were show finishes, earning Simpson nearly $70,000 in purses. Life-to-date, Buddy has 1,078 wins and purse earnings of $2.28 million.

In his initial 2012 county fair starts at the Wayne County Fair near his hometown of Fairfield, he won the first two races with 2-year-old trotting colts, and finished third and fourth in the next two.

In Egyptian Colt Stakes action at the White County Fair in Carmi in late July, Simpson guided his talented freshman trotter Accokeek Mercury (King La Conch-Fox Valley Heroine) to a track record 2:04h win. He also reined Accokeek Aphrodite (King La Conch-Accokeek Flyer) to a 2:05.1h win on the same card.

Accokeek Mercury would tow Simpson to the winner's circle four additional times at the county fairs over the summer, plus a County Fair Challenge Championship at the Du Quoin State Fair in late August.

Now that the racing season has fairly quieted, Buddy still has not.

“We have two green colts, one born in July, and the other in September, currently in training. They can race right on through the winter. I’ll let Clay drive those. It gets cold, I’m gonna stay home and train babies,” chuckled Buddy.

Simpson seriously emphasized though, anyone else in a medical situation such as his, “don’t hesitate” to have the pacemaker implant procedure done, his was so successful.

“A friend of mine told me he had the same procedure, and he also feels better than he had in a long, long time.”

Simpson labels 2012 and his probable lifesaving pacemaker implant “interesting” and “glad it’s behind me.”

He also feels “really blessed” to come first up, still loaded with trot.

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