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Chicago Ridge mayor: ‘I thought I was going to die’

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Chuck Tokar considers himself lucky to be alive.

Tokar, 59, the mayor of Chicago Ridge, experienced a life-threatening incident in August that, if left untreated, may have had the village seeking a new leader.

He started feeling pain one day in his left hip. He figured it may have been arthritis. Twenty-six years ago, he was involved in a serious car accident in which he suffered a broken hip. Tokar attributed the pain to that accident and didn’t give it much thought.

“I thought, ‘You break your hip, you probably will get arthritis.’ It was not that huge a deal. It bothered me for two weeks or so, then I noticed an ache behind my knee,” Tokar said.

He made an appointment with his doctor. That night, at 3 a.m., he woke up with what he thought was a charley horse.

“I reached down to rub it. It was a vein popping out of my calf, and it felt like an ice pick in my calf,” he said. “I worked Friday morning for a few hours. They did an ultrasound on it at the doctor’s office and the tech said, ‘I’ve got good news and bad news. The good news is you don’t have to go back to work.’ ”

The “bad news” had him heading directly to the emergency room at Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn with a massive blood clot that stretched from his hip to his calf. Some doctors said it was the largest clot they had ever seen.

“I was like, ‘Wonderful, that’s good to hear,’ ” Tokar recalled recently.

He was in critical care for three days and, fortunately, a doctor who specializes in arteries and veins was at Good Samaritan Hospital in Downers Grove.

Tokar thought his stay would be short. He wound up spending a week combined in the two hospitals. He had three surgeries in two days.

He was fortunate, in a way, that he had that car accident in 1987.

“I did have a blood clot in my right leg that did break off and went to my lung. I was at Oak Forest Hospital. I thought it was a heart attack and I was dying,” he said. “They went in and put an umbrella filter in my lung to catch any clots. So this time when they did an X-ray, I said, ‘That’s the filter from 26 years ago.’ They said I should be glad it’s still there.”

After the latest development, Tokar was put under doctor’s orders to not sit too long and to get up and walk around often. He has a stand-up desk in the mayor’s office which he uses to avoid sitting in a chair too long, lest another clot be created.

He’s extremely grateful that Dr. Amir Motarjeme was able to perform the surgery.

“They say he’s the best at this. I was in good hands. He did a great job,” Tokar said.

Tokar lost 12 pounds while hospitalized and recently was walking with a slight limp that was expected to be temporary. He has a new chair that slopes downward a bit, designed to enhance circulation to his legs.

“In my old chair, I noticed the pins-and-needles feeling in my feet after sitting at the desk all day,” he said.

Looking back at his ordeal, he conceded, “At one point, I thought I was going to die. ... I got lucky.”

He offers this advice for anyone who may experience strange sensations in their legs: Call your doctor.



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