How a 49ers mandate saved Keena Turner's life

Jerry McDonald, The Mercury News on

Published in Football

The wisest soul in the organization, a 49ers lifer who has provided perspective and counsel for decades, was uncharacteristically speechless.

Keena Turner heard the words yet couldn’t comprehend their meaning.

It was February of 2022, and a Stanford cardiologist was routinely delivering the results of an echocardiogram, the only two words of which Turner remembers clearly were “aortic aneurysm.”

Sitting in an office at 49ers headquarters, Turner can chuckle about it now.

“Once I got off the floor, we didn’t really talk about what the options were because there was only one option,” Turner said. “I had to have surgery, so it was just deciding on when.”

The doctors wanted to operate in March.


To the consternation of friends and family, it wouldn’t be until February of 2023 that Turner had his chest opened up so that three inches of his ascending aorta could be removed and replaced by synthetic tubing.

Having experienced no symptoms, Turner, to put it mildly, was surprised. As football players go, Turner seemed in good health for someone who played 11 seasons and 153 games with the 49ers from 1980-90 with four Super Bowl championships. Co-workers called him “The Walking Man” because Turner was always on the move in and around the club facility.

A veteran of 26 years in the 49ers’ front office in various capacities, Turner has spent the last five as the senior adviser to general manager John Lynch.

And Turner will tell anyone who will listen he’s still around because of his boss.


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