The 62-year-old Furniss won individual gold in the 200 free and a relay gold in the 800 free relay at the 1976 Olympic Games. In his career, he broke 10 world records and 19 American records, and won 11 AAU national titles and six NCAA event titles at USC. All of this came in the context of dealing with a debilitating arthritic condition in his back called ankylosing spondylitis that left him unable to even stand.
According to a Caring Bridge page set up to track his status, Furniss suffered a heart attack on Sunday morning at 2 a.m. and was put in a medically induced coma at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Orange, CA. Doctors began to “warm him up” on Monday as part of a process design to protect the brain from the impact of a heart attack.
An update posted Thursday revealed that he is now awake, as well as speaking and moving slowly. According to the post, Furniss’ neurologist said he made a “major turn [Tuesday] for the good.” The doctor added that recovery will take “many weeks” but was optimistic that Furniss will likely get back to “baseline.”
Furniss was inducted into the International Swimming Hall of Fame in 1987 as an honor swimmer and his older brother Steve was a two-time Olympian and 1972 Olympic bronze medalist.
After his swimming career ended, Bruce moved into the private sector and for the last 17 years has worked as a senior director and broker associate with Berkadia Real Estate Advisors in Newport Beach, CA.