Rifle High School custodian running for his life | PostIndependent.com

Rifle High School custodian running for his life

Pete Fowler
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
Pete Fowler/Post IndependentCandelario "Candy" DeLuera pauses on a break from work at Rifle High School on Friday. He runs at least four miles every day after suffering a heart attack and falling into a coma in 2005. DeLuera says running never gets old.

GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colorado ” Candelario DeLuera got a second chance at life three years ago, and he’s been running toward it ever since.

A jovial man known as “Candy,” he’s moving full speed ahead after suffering a heart attack in early 2005 and spending the better part of a week in a coma . DeLuera now runs around Rifle for at least four miles after work almost every day and participates in all the 5K charity events he can find.

On Feb. 19, 2005, DeLuera was driving his truck by the Rifle Elks Lodge when the heart attack struck. He felt a sharp pain in the left side of his torso like he’d never felt before.

“It was just a another normal day until then. Then I feel this pain and I was wondering what was going on,” he said. “I put my truck in neutral ” my first thought was to hold onto the wheel.”

It was tough to keep things under control but he stayed focused until stopping his truck by the creek behind Jon’s Liquors after hitting a small tree or bush. The last thing he remembers is taking off his seat belt, wondering what was happening to him, and reclining his seat to lie down because it hurt so much. That was a Saturday morning. He didn’t wake up until Thursday night. His said his family was told he had “almost zero chance” of getting back on his feet.

DeLuera, who has two kids aged 11 and 20, woke up and asked what he was doing in the hospital. He didn’t know he’d ridden in a helicopter to Grand Junction.

As his recovery began, a doctor told him he had to walk at least a mile every day.

“For the first two weeks it was really bad,” he said. “I could barely walk a half mile. But after that, I never gave up. I keep doing it.”

He would start to go two miles, three, then more. After two or three months he found himself jogging. He just kept going. Every time he drives by the site of the accident, he remembers Feb. 19, 2005.

“To be honest, I didn’t get a chance to get scared or anything. When I woke up I was just glad and happy I was still alive,” he said. “That doctor, he declared me dead, according to what I heard, and he told me, ‘Candy, you were gone.’

“He saved my life. I get a second chance and I take it,” DeLuera said.

DeLuera had always been into playing sports like soccer or baseball but had never jogged or run regularly. He takes better care of himself now. He said he gave up smoking after waking up from the coma and is now “pretty much a vegetarian.” Quitting smoking wasn’t hard.

“I said, ‘I don’t need no help. I got to help myself.’ He helped me enough to keep me alive, so I gotta do something to help myself, too,” DeLuera said.

DeLuera said running never gets old. It just makes him feel good. His energy seems to carry over to his job as custodian at Rifle High School.

“He’s the happiest guy. He never seems down,” said Rifle High School administrative secretary Jeannie Cox. “He is the best. We love him dearly. He just can’t do enough for anybody. … You could ask anybody, and they’ll tell you the same.”

Contact Pete Fowler: 384-9121


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