By Journey Hedrick, as instructed to Janie McQueen

At some point in 2000, at age 46, I used to be within the pool doing a tough set when a jolt of chest ache and radiating arm ache stopped me chilly. I’ve been swimming most of my life — I used to be a member of U.S. Masters Swimming for greater than 40 years and have participated in nationwide and world championships — so I’m no stranger to a twinge of ache. This felt completely different, however I assumed it was bronchial asthma or that I’d strained my triceps.

The discomfort eased and I completed the remainder of my exercise. However when the ache got here again 2 days later, I instantly referred to as my physician and went in for a treadmill stress take a look at. I’ve been periodically having stress exams for the reason that mid-Nineteen Eighties; after witnessing the in the end deadly cardiac occasions of very match and energetic swimmers, I wished to be vigilant.

I handed the take a look at “with flying colours,” but simply 2 weeks later, I wound up at Mercy Hospital in Des Moines. I used to be having a coronary heart assault.

The heart specialist instructed me I had coronary artery illness (CAD), and that the left anterior descending artery (LAD) in my coronary heart was 99% blocked. I used to be rushed to vital care, then the cardiac catheterization lab so I may have a stent put in to open up the blocked artery.

I had all the time bragged to my inactive buddies that I’d be the one to dodge coronary heart points. I used to be so mistaken.

In 2008, I had one other coronary heart assault mid-swim. Docs discovered one other LAD blockage that required a second stent. Then, in 2015, an angiogram confirmed a significant blockage within the first LAD diagonal department, and I acquired my third stent.

From Rehab to New Information

I accomplished cardiac rehab after my first coronary heart assault, and I returned after my third stent was put in. In each cases, I used to be certain my bodily rehabilitation can be fairly straightforward, and never almost as nice of a problem as my psychological rehab. So I began seeing a psychological well being skilled along with taking part in an train coaching program designed to assist me regain my energy and preserve my situation from worsening.

My psychological wants and points have been piling up rapidly. I used to be confused, each from my very own self-driven persona and my job as Head Males’s Swimming Coach at Iowa State College and later as head of my very own swim college (cycloneswimschool.com). I fearful about shedding my aggressive edge. I used to be additionally fearful about how my coronary heart points had affected my spouse. She has all the time been my fixed supply of reassurance and calm, however I did not wish to burden her.

Counseling helped considerably, as did bodily rehab. I had an ideal comeback within the pool in 2016, swimming at a extremely aggressive stage for my age group. In 2017, I set one other age group world report within the 50 meter butterfly.

Regardless of sustaining a excessive stage of health, my wrestle with CAD continued, and I wanted double bypass surgical procedure in 2018. Earlier than I went in for the process, I reached out to 4 extremely athletic mates who’d had coronary heart surgical procedure. It was probably the greatest issues I may have completed to be mentally ready for it.

Being in wonderful form on the time of surgical procedure helped, too. I’d simply began to taper — that means to reduce coaching — to prepare for an enormous Masters swimming competitors. My core energy and lung capability speeded my restoration. I achieved a post-surgery purpose of setting one other world report within the 50 meter butterfly for the 65-69 age group in August 2021.

A Full Life With CAD

If there’s one factor I’ve realized via my bypass surgical procedure and CAD journey, it’s the superb resilience of the human physique and the way rapidly it could possibly heal.

All through these 20+ years, one of many keys to thriving with CAD has been seeing my heart specialist yearly, not placing it off. I’ve realized to be a greater listener to my physique. If I ever get essentially the most delicate feeling that one thing’s not proper, I now ask myself if it may be my coronary heart. Then I act on it.

The only most necessary factor to me all through my CAD journey has been the assist of my spouse of 43 years, L’Louise. I really feel it’s important you’ve an advocate via any heart-related conditions — these are life-and-death issues. L’Louise goes with me to each appointment and each take a look at. Generally after we get dangerous information, I zone out. I depend on L’Louise’s acute listening abilities to catch the whole lot. She all the time asks questions and pushes for solutions. And we’re nonetheless head over heels in love.

L’Loiuse and I are each retired now. We love the water of the Mississippi River in Winona, MN, which is the place we first met. We spend as many days of every summer time as attainable hanging out on a sandbar within the backwaters of the river. We additionally love residing within the vibrant faculty city of Ames, Iowa. We’re avid Iowa State athletic followers and benefit from the many issues residing in a school neighborhood provides.

My mantra stays: “Defy perceived limitations.” I all the time wish to imagine that I’m at 100% of what I’m able to doing, even with the compromised coronary heart perform I’m so grateful to have.

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