Steve "Nookie" Postal earned a reputation for being a master strategist when it came to playing the game of Around the World of 80 Plates. And while the show's finalist was always game for any challenge, a few weeks after wrapping the competition, he found himself in a life-or-death scenario after suffering a massive blood clot in his heart and lungs.
Postal, one of three finalists in the 80 Plates finale, tells The Dish exclusively that in the final stages of production, he "just didn't feel right," especially while competing in Argentina and Uraguay. "I was getting really tired really fast. I didn't want to walk anywhere -- it wasn't just the running that was killing me," he says, but he just chalked it up to jetlag and not being in the most perfect shape. Still, even when the cameras stopped rolling, the symptoms continued once he was back stateside.
"When I came back to the States, I was complaining to my wife about it, she was just like 'You're just out of shape,' but it got the point where I couldn't walk up a flight of stairs anymore. So finally she says 'You have to go to the doctor,'" he recalls, saying that just walking into the doctor's office had him winded. After explaining his symptoms, his doctor gave him an ultimatum: "The doctor said: 'You need to go to the hospital now, or I'm putting you in an ambulance.'"
Nookie being Nookie, he took the doctor's words as being "a little dramatic," so he and his wife stopped for lunch before heading to the hospital. That's when things took a serious turn.
"After lunch I went to the hospital and as I parked my car, I'm walking across the street and I collapsed. Thankfully there was a police officer there who helped me into the hospital. It turned out I had a massive pulmonary embolism," he tells us.
He remained hospitalized for three weeks while doctors put him on a regimen of blood thinners and medicines to get his blood in check, and in case you doubt the seriousness of the clot, consider this tale Nookie told us: "My cardiologist said it wasn't the biggest blood clot he'd ever seen, it was just the largest he's seen from someone who's still alive."
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As it turns out, this medical condition runs in Nookie's family. "My father died when I was 15, and he died of the same thing. He took a long flight to Alaska and it got him. We figured it all out, it was that long flight from Hong Kong to Argentina that did it. The doctors can tell how old the clot is," Nookie told us, adding that clotting issues are a hereditary condition -- one he had no idea would afflict him.
After his blood was regulated and he was released, Nookie had to stay out of the kitchen for three months, and upon his return in his office, he booted up his computer to find a reminder of just how off he was feeling health-wise before the blood clot. "I finally went back to work four months later, and the screen I had left my computer on had Google searches for walking pneumonia, mono -- I thought I might have these because I felt so bad. Turns out, blood clot in the heart and lungs."
The 37-year-old chef is now on blood thinners for life, and he says "it's probably a good thing that it happened to me as young as I am," because his survival rate might not have been so high later in life. Otherwise, it's a simple program he's following now. "I have to stay on these medications forever, regulate what I eat and try not to die."
And in true Nookie fashion, even when the subject is something as serious as skirting death, things always have to end with a laugh: "I guess they say what doesn't kill you makes you stronger. Isn't that what Kelly Clarkson says?"
The Around the World in 80 Plates finale airs tonight at 10p -- tune in to see if Nookie is the show's first champion.