Leader of nation's largest nursing home association 'back in the game' after suffering aneurysm

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Bruce Yarwood, AHCA CEO
Bruce Yarwood, AHCA CEO

Although he's not near operating at full-capacity yet, Bruce Yarwood says he'll take that over the alternative. A ruptured brain aneurysm nearly claimed the life of the American Health Care Association president and CEO on Halloween morning.

This marks the first week he could visit the office repeatedly since his health emergency. For the near future, he will still be working mostly from home, taking phone calls and administering much by e-mail for a few hours each day, he told McKnight's in a telephone interview. He does not have a firm timetable to return to work full-time, but he hopes to know more after his next doctor's appointment in early February, he said.

Yarwood noted that he has less stamina and a slight problem with balance since the incident. He also said that his doctor gave him clearance to start driving again only last Wednesday. On Thursday, he made a brief visit to AHCA headquarters—his first in more than two months.

"I didn't fully understand the significance of what had happened until I was sitting with my neurologist (last Wednesday) and he told me about half of the people don't come out of this and half of the other half come out with some paralysis problem," the 67-year-old said.

He said he had no warning before the aneurysm developed and that doctors have no explanation for the weakened blood vessel's rupture. It was surgically repaired in early November. He spent 20 days in a hospital intensive care unit.

Yarwood praised AHCA's Chief Operating Officer Jennifer Shimer and Senior Vice President of Policy & Government Relations David Hebert for the smooth interim period. They, along with Chairman Bob Van Dyk and the rest of the Board of Governors, kept association business running as well as could be hoped, Yarwood added. AHCA's 11,000 members never formally received notice of his condition and medical leave. Word discreetly filtered down through state executives and other channels to some.

"While Bruce has been missed for his intellect, strategic thinking and charm, the association has continued to operate seamlessly in his absence," AHCA Vice President of Public Affairs Susan Feeney said on Monday. "He's e-mailing and responding, giving thoughtful approaches to various things. He's definitely back in the game."