Coronary Artery Illness: A Champion Swimmer’s Story

By Journey Hedrick, as instructed to Janie McQueen

Sooner or later 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 tests because the mid-Nineteen Eighties; after witnessing the finally deadly cardiac occasions of very match and lively swimmers, I needed 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 disease (CAD), and that the left anterior descending artery (LAD) in my coronary heart was 99% blocked. I used to be rushed to crucial 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 incorrect.

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 obtained my third stent.

From Rehab to New Data

I accomplished cardiac rehab after my first heart attack, and I returned after my third stent was put in. In each situations, I used to be positive my bodily rehabilitation could be fairly simple, and never practically as nice of a problem as my psychological rehab. So I began seeing a psychological well being skilled along with collaborating in an train coaching program designed to assist me regain my energy and hold 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 faculty ( I nervous about shedding my aggressive edge. I used to be additionally nervous 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 didn't need 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 degree for my age group. In 2017, I set one other age group world document within the 50 meter butterfly.

Regardless of sustaining a excessive degree of health, my battle 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 buddies who’d had coronary heart surgical procedure. It was top-of-the-line issues I may have performed 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 a giant Masters swimming competitors. My core energy and lung capability speeded my restoration. I achieved a post-surgery objective of setting one other world document 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 by way of my bypass surgical procedure and CAD journey, it’s the wonderful resilience of the human physique and the way rapidly it might 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 refined feeling that one thing’s not proper, I now ask myself if it is perhaps my coronary heart. Then I act on it.

The one most vital factor to me all through my CAD journey has been the help of my spouse of 43 years, L’Louise. I really feel it’s important you’ve gotten an advocate by way of any heart-related conditions — these are life-and-death issues. L’Louise goes with me to each appointment and each take a look at. Typically after we get dangerous information, I zone out. I depend on L’Louise’s acute listening abilities to catch all the things. 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 university neighborhood provides.

My mantra stays: “Defy perceived limitations.” I all the time prefer to consider 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.

Well being Options

Extra from WebMD


The information provided about this medicine is based on the medical literature of the medicine, however, it does not constitute a substitute for consulting a doctor.

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