Soul Survivor



Trammell Logan is a SoulCycle instructor. He’s one of the most popular SoulCycle instructors. He’s one of my favorite SoulCycle instructors. Young, fit, and healthy, Trammell almost died in the back seat of an Uber 6 years ago. He suffered a pulmonary embolism that should have killed him. Rushed to the hospital and taken into surgery, they discovered massive blood clots in his lungs and heart. When he woke up the next morning, the doctors said it was a miracle he survived. Trammell’s life was in fact saved that day thanks to one of his dedicated riders.

A few weeks ago on a Saturday morning I went to ride Trammell’s class. He was celebrating his 10th anniversary as a SoulCycle instructor. But it was a celebration of his life as well. Sitting in the front row was Dr. Roopa Kohli-Seth, MD, Director of the Institute For Critical Care Medicine at Mount Sinai. He acknowledged and thanked her for putting together the team that saved his life that day. Trammell joked that he didn’t really know her that well at the time, other than the fact she took his class regularly, and was always asking him to turn on the fans.

Roopa saved his life not just once but twice. Trammell suffered a stroke 2 years later.

I knew bits and pieces of all these events, but on that 10th anniversary I asked if he’d share the full story from start to finish, and how these life-altering, death-defying experiences have changed him as a man and as an instructor.

STYLE OF SPORT: Can you share a little bit about how and where you grew up?

TRAMMELL LOGAN: I was born and raised in New York. My mom had 8 kids, I was number 7. I had older siblings, but by the time I came along there was a 15-16 year gap. The majority were out and about doing their own thing, so I grew up essentially with my mom and little sister, and a lot of nieces and nephews. But my younger sister passed away when she was 7 and I was 9.

SOS: How did you get into sports?

TL: The first thing I got into was martial arts. That was my first intro to athletics, the discipline and work. I played a lot of sports like baseball and basketball, competing in different tournaments in the summer. I also used to compete in martial arts. My mom had me active. But I always had this thing for dance. Fast forward to the 4th grade. She wanted me to audition for the Boys Choir of Harlem. She had seen them on TV. They performed with everybody. I was reluctant because I did love to dance and sing but I wasn’t into classical music. I didn’t understand the structure of what that choir was. I wanted to hang with my friends in the neighborhood. The school takes kids starting in 4th grade. I auditioned in 1997 and got in. So from 4th-12th grade I was in the Boys Choir of Harlem attending the Choir Academy of Harlem.


SOS: I didn’t realize there was a whole school. I thought it was just the choir.

TL: There was one building. I was in school from 7:30 am to 7:30 pm. Academics were from 8:05 am to 2:30 pm, with some artistic classes in between. Then we had rehearsal from about 2:30 pm to 6 pm. Everyone in the academy had the goal to make it into the performing choir and then travel. If you toured, you had to be one of the best in the school and maintain a certain GPA. It was everything from Bach to Scott Joplin – classical, spiritual, pop, gospel, and jazz. The show was 2 1/2 hours. We sold out Lincoln Center all the time. Performed at The Kennedy Center in D.C. We traveled the world, performed with Stevie Wonder, Beyonce, LL Cool J, Queen Latifah, Michael Jackson. We were on tour more than we were here. That’s where I discovered my insane love for dance and singing. That’s where I really realized I’m a dancer.

SOS: Did you go to college?

TL: I graduated and got into the University of Maryland. But we didn’t have the finances and I didn’t want to be in debt for the rest of my life trying to pay for school. And I always knew I wanted to open up my own dance studio. I told my mom college is not for me, not for what I wanted to do in life. She was disappointed but respected my decision, but she said I had to work. I was like ‘say less’…. Wendy’s, Old Navy, and while still dancing. Hip Hop is my style of dance and I did a lot of performing throughout the city. I met the whole dance community.

SOS: How did you get started as a fitness instructor?

TL: Fast forward to my early 20’s. I was working at a musical theater company on the Upper East Side called “Applause”. I was one of their top choreographers and head director of the Hip Hop program. It had been there for about 30 years and was very well respected. They had a great program for kids. I worked there for 4 years and that’s how SoulCycle found me. Julie Rice (SoulCycle co-founder) happened to be friends with one of the parents of a student of mine named Wyatt. I was at his birthday party and Julie was there with her daughter. She asked Wyatt’s mom, Linda, about me. She commented that she liked my energy. “That’s Trammell. Everybody loves him. Kids love him. Parents love him. He’s great.” She introduced us and Julie asked if I wanted to teach at SoulCycle.


“That wasn’t really my thing. I did martial arts, I boxed, danced, played sports, and lifted. At the time I wasn’t loving the idea of jumping on an indoor bike. Also, as a young black guy on the Upper East Side, I didn’t see much representation.”


At this point I knew what SoulCycle was but I’d never done spinning. That wasn’t really my thing. I did martial arts, I boxed, danced, played sports, and lifted. At the time I wasn’t loving the idea of jumping on an indoor bike. Also, as a young black guy on the Upper East Side, I didn’t see much representation. I didn’t even know if I’d feel comfortable being in the space music-wise and what I would play. But we kept in contact and Linda kept encouraging me. “Trammell it’s the perfect company. You’ll love it. I promise you.” Finally about two months after that I connected with Julie. That was October of 2013.

SOS: When did you start teaching at SoulCycle?

TL: I took my first class in January 2014. Julie knew what she was doing and put me with Marvin. He’s a black Master Instructor, and an insane instructor! He’s the reason I’m here. If I didn’t like my first experience I would have been like ‘Nah, I’m not doing this’. It was more than a workout. It was something I needed emotionally that I didn’t even know. I couldn’t put into words how necessary it was. I was in a 4-week accelerated training program with three others, all of whom were all professional dancers. We’re all still cool to this day. I was still at Applause, but Julie said, “I’ll work with your schedule”. I started teaching in April. I loved it and everything scaled from there. I was lucky to be very successful early on, build a strong foundation and a strong community. The same year I started at SoulCycle is the same year I started my own dance studio. Almost 10 years later we have 500 students.


SOS: So let’s fast forward now to what happened in February 2018 and what led up to the pulmonary embolism.

TL: Up until this point I had never been sick. I was lucky with great health. We celebrated New Year’s Eve, and New Year’s Day I taught two classes in Bronxville. I was riding then, teaching on the bike. Afterwards I took another instructor’s class. When I got home the first symptom I felt was a sharp back pain. It was excruciating. I thought maybe I pulled something. I’d worked out multiple times that day. That had to be it. I didn’t have any other symptoms, but it didn’t feel like just a muscle spasm. It felt internal. But then it kind of went away. We work out all the time, and with pain like that you don’t rush to the doctor. Over the course of four days I would have the pain and then it would disappear. But after four or five days, I started to develop a cough. The flu was going around. It wasn’t super alarming until I started getting night sweats. A little after a week I went to the doctor. They checked my blood, EKG, all of that. Everything came back normal.

Meanwhile I had accepted a gig at Sundance Film Festival to teach dance. I didn’t want to fly, but I had gotten the approval from the doctors. While I’m out there obviously altitude is taking effect. A lot of people I was with were having altitude sickness. When I started my first class, I did a couple jumping jacks as a warmup and got dizzy, but I just thought it was the altitude. I taught my classes and after a while I was fine. We were there for four days. The back pain went away, but my cough got worse, accompanied by specks of blood. I thought it was maybe bronchitis. I was still feeling dizzy throughout the day. But my night sweats got worse and that was what was most alarming.

SOS: You come back and how did things progress from there?

TL: It’s now the end of January and I have my studio shows at the school. I usually come out and do a speech in the beginning, and thank everyone for coming. But I didn’t have the energy. That same day my mom wasn’t feeling well. She came to the show, but after I took her to the hospital. It was nothing serious. But the next day I decided to go to the hospital.


We’ve never seen a pulmonary embolism like this with the clots you had and where they were located. Whoever you believe in, thank them. Whoever is watching over you, thank them because you should be dead.”


It was February 1st. I didn’t realize I had already started losing weight. They checked my blood and EKG, and thought they heard a heart murmur. We set an appointment to see a cardiologist although nothing seemed that crazy alarming in my readings. On February 2nd, I had a meeting with SoulCycle to talk about Soul Stream. This was when we were first developing the home bikes and getting into online classes. I was part of the process and they wanted my feedback. I’d call this meeting off multiple times because I hadn’t been feeling well. I still wasn’t 100% but I decided to go. I took a nap but when I woke up my left calf was swollen. I wasn’t in pain but felt some numbness. I decided I’d go to the meeting first and then the ER. I went downstairs and got in an Uber. That’s when the attack started.

SOS: What were the symptoms?

TL: I started to feel dizzy and started to sweat. It was cold outside but I was drenched. I took my coat off and the Uber driver looked at me. “Are you alright?” But then I realized I couldn’t breathe to answer him. So I texted my friend Sara Keirnan at SoulCycle, who was also leading the meeting. I told her something is off. Then I texted my ex who I was still living with at the time. “I can’t talk. I can’t breathe.” Now there is excruciating pain in my lungs and heart. I’m tossing and turning in the back seat. I started to panic. The Uber driver said do you need me to take you to the hospital. I signaled for him to take me back home because we were in Harlem. There was one particular hospital that I knew I was going to die if they took me there. I called my girl and told her to come downstairs. As soon as I got out of the car I collapsed into the fire hydrant. I was still conscious. They picked me up, walked me into the lobby, and called an ambulance. They put me on oxygen which started to work, and I could breathe again. The ambulance took me to Mount Sinai, and attached me to everything to take different tests. I’m like what the fuck is going on? No one knew. “You’re young, you’re a fitness instructor, you’re clearly in shape. We don’t know what’s going on and you don’t have a history of anything.”

I remember lying there. I never lost consciousness. My mom was there, my friends were there. People started to come in. They pulled my mom aside and said, “He’s really sick. His PH levels are sky high. His body is totally acidic. It as if he’s been smoking his whole life.” Everyone is trying to hold it together and next thing I know they put me under. I had had a pulmonary embolism.

SOS: Tell us what a pulmonary embolism is.

TL: A pulmonary embolism is blood clots that invade your lungs and heart. They found 12 massive clots in both my lungs and two in my heart. I went under on Friday night and they started surgery. They told my family the earliest I would wake up, if I woke up, would be Monday morning, and I might have brain damage. But I woke up Saturday morning. I’m attached to chest tubes, catheters, tubes are going down my throat, coming out of my neck. I realize I have a big bandage on my chest. I didn’t know they had opened me up. I do know I can’t move. And I can’t talk because of the tube in my throat.


The doctors come in. “Mr. Logan are you aware of where you are?” I shake my head yes. “Raise your right hand. Raise your left. Wiggle your toes. Who’s the president?” I start signaling to take out the breathing tube. They say no. Finally they take it out and ask me what I remember. My family comes in, friends come in. I still don’t know how I look. Everybody who sees me starts crying and stops in their tracks. Then the doctor came in and told me what happened. He told me no one should survive what I just survived.

SOS: And what was the surgery?

TL: They had to remove the clots out of my lungs and heart. They just kept finding massive clots. The surgeon said, “We’ve never seen a pulmonary embolism like this with the clots you had and where they were located. Whoever you believe in, thank them. Whoever is watching over you, thank them because you should be dead.”

I had lost 30 lbs. and didn’t realize it during the month. I went from 165 lbs. to 135 lbs. I was in the ICU for about four days and they put in a filter to catch any clots. I was in the hospital for about nine days total.

SOS: And then we all started to hear and talk about what had happened.

TL: It was crazy. The support was insane from my family, and my friends growing up, and in the SoulCycle community, I was very lucky to have the amount of people come to my aid and the amount of money they raised to help me. Now let me backtrack to the day I had the attack and what was happening behind the scenes…

My girl at the time called Kwabena, aka “Kwabz”, who worked at the front desk at Soul. “Trammell’s on his way to the hospital. I don’t know what’s going on but he’s really sick.” Kwabz told Melinda, the studio manager, and Melinda called Roopa. She and I didn’t know each other, other than she rode in my class. We’d say hi and bye but not much more than that. Melinda called her because she runs the whole ICU at Mount Sinai, and told her I was on my way. Apparently it was her birthday or her husband’s. I don’t know but she was celebrating something and left to make calls. “Save his life as if it were mine.” She single-handedly put together the team and that’s exactly what they did. When I woke up Saturday morning she came and told me everything that happened. I just broke into tears. We never really had a full conversation before that day.

SOS: So let’s talk about your recovery now.


When I was in that Uber I knew I was dying. It was like, ‘Oh, this is death.’ I felt life leaving my body, but I just kept repeating, ‘Breathe one more time. Breathe one more time.’ When you get that close to death and you process it, you get a better understanding and acceptance of it.


TL: I came home February 2nd in a wheelchair. I was in bed. I couldn’t do anything. I couldn’t sit up. I couldn’t shower on my own. I had to get help to go to the bathroom. My collarbone was messed up from when they opened me up and went in. And I also had the flu. But the recovery process started quick. My body started to replenish and repair itself. Day by day I felt stronger. Being able to sit up was my workout, but as a fitness instructor my recovery was much faster. I did a Spartan race seven weeks after I got home.

SOS: How soon did you come back and start teaching?

TL: April. I was only out for two months. I was able to ride after six weeks or so. Three weeks later I could run on the treadmill, and push 50 lb. dumbbells over my head. My body recovered really quick. I got back on the schedule and got to it. I didn’t have an issue until May of 2020 when I had a stroke.

SOS: When you say you had a stroke, what happened?

TL: I lost my speech and my ability to move my right hand. They still don’t know if it was Covid related. I did have Covid in March when it first hit. It could have been a lingering response to that. A lot of people did have strokes related to Covid.

SOS: It happened all of a sudden?

TL: Out of nowhere. I was walking the dogs. I’d worked out at home. I was fine. Nothing lead up to it. I was on the phone with my brother, talking about some music thing. I put him on speaker and went to wash my hands. My right hand went numb. What is going on? Something is wrong. Then my head felt kind of weird and when I went to say something, I started mumbling. My brother lives right across the street and a minute later he was there. By that time my speech had started to come back.

Now were heavy in Covid. You can’t just go to the hospital unless you’re having a crazy emergency, which I was, but you’re also worried about getting Covid waiting with so many people there. As a result of my pulmonary embolism, every time I feel something I check my temperature and I check my blood pressure. My temperature was really low. I put the heat on and made tea. I called a couple of friends, two of them doctors. One said, “I don’t want to freak you out, but it sounds like you just had a stroke. If you know anybody at the hospital call them.”


I called Roopa. She said I’ll call you back in five minutes. Go to the hospital. Mount Sinai again. Roopa again. By that time I got my temperature up and my speech back, but I still can’t move my hand. I got there and didn’t have to wait. They took me right in, and I went straight to a scan. “You had a stroke on the left side of your brain. We’re going to keep you and run some tests to make sure you don’t have another one.” I was there for five days, but you couldn’t have any visitors because of Covid. Luckily I knew a lot of the doctors and nurses. They looked at my chart and tested me for everything. All came back cool. Still to this day I have not been diagnosed with anything.

I was in the hospital for five days. Came home and had to recover again. I haven’t had any incidents since, but I did have two scares after the stroke. If you get dehydrated it can mimic the symptoms of a stroke. One time teaching outside at Hudson Yards, I got dizzy and couldn’t move my hand, but just for a few seconds. The class didn’t realize anything happened. I went to ER and they told me that was not uncommon. It’s still weird because it’s been six years since the pulmonary embolism and four years since the stroke. It seems far away, but it also seems like yesterday.

SOS: How has this all changed you? Has it changed the way you teach?

TL: It solidified what I think my calling is in life. My calling is to teach and to lead and to bring people together. This is who I am as a person. Even before all of this, I’ve led my classes with empathy being at the forefront. A lot of that derives from when I lost my sister. She had some auto immune stuff going on and got really sick. It paralyzed the whole left side of her body. I used to help take care of her. I never really allowed myself to heal from her passing. It wasn’t until I was 26 or 27 when I had an emotional mental breakdown one night. That’s when everything hit me.

The things that we endure are what make us who we are, but it shouldn’t affect how we treat each other. Even when people are not being the most kind or the most welcoming, it has allowed me to see them differently. You never know what somebody is going through, so just give them grace. It’s encouraged others to have that same respect. It also shifted other people’s perspective of me because I was 29 when this happened. I’m teaching, super healthy, and this happened to me. It allowed me to be more of an example. Take care of your body so your body can take care of you.

SOS: How do you go forward after something like this happens. Does the trauma linger?

TL: One of the things my doctors said is this may not happen again but it doesn’t mean it won’t. It’s a possibility. When I was in that Uber I knew I was dying. It was like, ‘Oh, this is death.’ I felt life kind of leaving my body, but I just kept repeating, ‘Breathe one more time. Breathe one more time.’ When you get that close to death and you process it, you get a better understanding and acceptance of it. This could happen again and I may not be as lucky. You accept that possibility. As devastating and as frightening as that is and was, it also brought a sense of calm to how I operate on my day to day. I’ve been there before and I can honestly say I’ve done so much as far as helping people. If this were my last day I can say I did a good job. That’s how I bring myself some peace.

There are obviously reminders. Its traumatizing. I get in the shower I see my scar. I don’t go a day without thinking about this. I couldn’t sleep for a long time, and I had a lot of mental issues months later. It’s a process. I’m still learning myself but I think my foundation is solid and the empathy around it. I understand when people who have gone through cancer or something else say it’s the worst thing that happened to them, but in some ways it’s also the best thing that happened to them.

SOS: Everything you’ve said you give off so powerfully. I feel it and I’m sure everyone else does. It’s what makes you so special as a teacher. It’s why we come to your class. Your connection is palpable. It’s genuine. We feel that love every time. Thank you.

Images courtesy of Trammell Logan