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Competitive Swimming With Coronary Artery Disease


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 totally 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-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 disease (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 might 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 serious 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 cases, I used to be certain my bodily rehabilitation could 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 power and maintain my situation from worsening.

My psychological wants and points had been piling up shortly. I used to be pressured, 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 ( I frightened about shedding my aggressive edge. I used to be additionally frightened 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 need to burden her.

Counseling helped considerably, as did bodily rehab. I had a terrific 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 document 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 buddies who’d had coronary heart surgical procedure. It was among the best issues I might have carried out 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 cut back coaching — to prepare for a giant Masters swimming competitors. My core power 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 may be one factor I’ve discovered by my bypass surgical procedure and CAD journey, it’s the superb resilience of the human physique and the way shortly it may 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 discovered 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 likely to be my coronary heart. Then I act on it.

The one most necessary 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 very important you could have an advocate by 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 once we get dangerous information, I zone out. I depend on L’Louise’s acute listening expertise to catch every thing. 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 doable 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 group gives.

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 operate I’m so grateful to have.

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