My colleague Hub Arkush said he had to go take care of some personal business, and he would finish his Bears column later that afternoon.
I told him to take care and I’d see him tomorrow. Hub left Halas Hall in Lake Forest with his backpack and slipped out the side door toward the parking lot. It was mid-August, and Bears training camp was in full swing. There was plenty to write about, so I stuck my face back in my computer and kept writing.
August on the Bears beat goes like this: sit in the muggy heat and watch training camp, talk to some sweaty players afterward, go back to the computer to write about what we saw and heard. Rinse and repeat. The month usually flies by.
Aug. 15 shook that routine.
I don’t know how much time passed before somebody came in and said they heard someone collapsed on the sidewalk and that it might be Hub. Several of us on the Bears beat hustled out of the room.
When I showed up on the scene, Hub already was in an ambulance. A small crowd of us who spoke with and worked beside Hub every single day stood there in disbelief. Nobody knew what to say. When the ambulance pulled away, I didn’t know if Hub was even alive.
On Tuesday, almost exactly four months later, I sat across from Hub at his dining room table catching up. For a long time before that, it felt like this might never happen again.
What I saw before me, as his beloved golden retrievers played in the other room, was a man who had been through a heck of a lot since suffering a heart attack four months ago.
More than anything, he was grateful for the love and support of his family. His wife, Candace, and his three children – sons Billy and Arthur and daughter Taylor – have been instrumental in getting him back on his feet.
“This is, in many respects, harder on them than it is on me,” Hub said. “I’ve been lucky because my family, my wife and kids, are unbelievable. They’ve done the best they can.”
I couldn’t help but think about the last Bears game we covered together, a preseason game at Soldier Field in August, just a few days before his heart attack.
Hub filed his column quickly after the game. It was a beautifully sunny Saturday afternoon. He leaned over and told me he and Candace had the grandkids at their house for the night. He was eager to get back.
Long before this ordeal, he knew his family came first. I thought of that moment a lot whenever I thought of Hub over the ensuing days, weeks and months.
Physically, Hub’s doing well now. He has struggled to fully regain his memory but is working on it, improving a little bit each day. He intends to return to work in the coming months with his expert analysis of the Chicago Bears and the rest of the NFL.
It took a true family effort to get him here. This story could have turned out much differently.
Nobody knows for certain how long Hub lay on that sidewalk unconscious, his heart stopped. Within minutes, Bears Vice President of Security John Tarpey was on the scene performing CPR until the paramedics arrived.
“I was unconscious,” Hub said. “Not breathing. My heart wasn’t working. Those were the six to eight minutes where Tarpey went to work and got my blood flowing.”
Hub spent more than two months at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago, none of which he remembers, and had a seven-hour open-heart bypass surgery in September. He spent a few more weeks at the Shirley Ryan AbilityLab rehabilitating before returning home. Hub called his team of doctors “incredible.” Everybody in his family pitched in to make it work, and Hub knows it was hard on them.
“We’re going to come through this having gone through things that will make our life better,” Hub said. “God forbid anyone ever go through something like this, it’s not what I expected. This isn’t something you can prepare for.”
He later added, “I could never do this without my family.”
Hub’s father, Arthur Arkush, founded Pro Football Weekly in 1967. Hub joined the company in the late 1970s on the business side, not really intending to become a journalist.
“There were a few things I wanted to do, and I wasn’t sure what it was going to be, but it wasn’t journalism,” Hub said.
In 1979, about a year and a half after Hub took the job, his father died of a heart attack while running on a path near Lake Michigan. Hub, who is 69, was only 26 when he and his brother Dan Arkush took over the business after their father’s death.
Pro Football Weekly went through many ups and downs over the ensuing four decades, eventually becoming part of Shaw Media in 2014. Over that time, Hub became the face of the operation and one of the preeminent voices on the NFL in Chicago and across the country. He also served as an analyst on the Bears’ radio broadcast from 1987 to 2004 and has been a frequent contributor and host on WSCR-AM 670 The Score.
He grew quite a following, and that has been even more apparent through the past few months. Messages have come in by the thousands since his health scare in August.
Rest assured, the family has seen them all and is grateful to every person who sent their regards. Hub said he wished he could respond to each and every one of them, but for a long time doctors’ orders were to remain off the phone and email as much as possible.
That is, however, soon to change. Hub wants to see through what his father started all those years ago when he founded PFW. He’s eager to return to work. Covering the NFL has become so much a part of who he is.
“The thing that I’m the worst at is doing nothing,” Hub said. “That’s been the hardest part of this recovery thing because the most important part of the recovery has been to sit and do nothing. But it’s two things: It’s that my favorite thing in my life has always been work, and then – it’s No. 1A and 1B – I really love football.”
• Sean Hammond is Shaw Local’s Bears beat reporter. Follow him on Twitter @sean_hammond.