Congenital Heart Defect Survivor completes marathons, 100 mile runs & Ironman Triathlon’s

Heart Inspired
October 22, 2009 my life changed as I was diagnosed with a life threatening Congenital Heart Defect resulting in more than 40% of my blood flowing backwards and a dangerous Polymorphic Ventricular Tachycardia Arrhythmia. Both went undetected my entire life and were not identified until that day.

Just 2 months later, on Dec. 23, 2009 I had open-heart surgery at the Cleveland Clinic, #1 Cardiac Hospital.
My name is Bob Alexander, Endurance Athlete, and Congenital Heart Valve Defect Survivor. I’ve been married for 36 years and have three great kids.
My 1st race was just 5 months after heart surgery, the 2010 Bolder Boulder. Since having open-heart surgery in 2009, I completed 24 endurance races included 2 Half Marathons, 7 Marathons and the New York City Marathon within 10 months, 2 – 50 Mile Ultras, A 100 Mile Ultra in 24:16, seven Century 100 mile cycling events in the Rockies & a 240 miler climbing 20,000 vertical feet, Ironman Arizona in 16:33:20 just 23 months after open-heart surgery. I gave my Ironman Finisher medal to 6-year-old Heart Transplant survivor Gabriella.

I will be doing 2 more Ironman events in 2013.

I am no one special, I just truly believe, despite the odds, “Anything is Possible”!

Bob Alexander — Husband, Father, Congenital Heart Defect Survivor, & Endurance Athlete who Loves Life

Why I Check my Oxygen Levels When I Ride

I have been trying to get ready for a the Avenue of the Oaks Century on May 1 and my training has been inconsistent at best….insert excuses here. Today I was able to spend 2 hours on a ride and I wanted to push a bit harder that normal.

SInce I no longer go to cardiac rehab. I try to mirror what the “maintenance” program I was on did when it comes to protocol. Each time I went to rehab the workout started with the following:

  1. Weigh myself.
  2. Relax and sit in a chair (of my own choice I closed my eyes and relaxed my whole body durigng the next steps).
  3. They would hook up the blood pressure cuff, and oxygen monitor.
  4. Then take the reading for my BP, resting HR & Oxygen level.

I do my best to do  all of the above things before I do any type of workout or riding (I’m in the market for a new blood pressure monitor as the electric one I had been using was not accurate when I brought with me to an appointment with my doctor and compared it with hers). Now during the cardiac rehab sessions they would check my oxygen levels 2-3 times, more if I was trying something new or pushing up a level of intensity. At home I only check it before I workout and occasionally after my cool down and when I push myself (now getting to the point of this entry) like I did today. Since I was heading out to ride twice as long as had I the past weeks I decided to take my Nonin Onyx Fingertip Oximeter with me to check throughout my ride. I want to point out at this point that this is same monitor 1 of my doctors uses, and 2 of my rehabs use so that is how I qualified it’s purchase. (one other point it is a nice way to check the accuracy of my heart rate monitor as well).

Today I used at the first sign of feeling like the ride should have been a bit easier and I didn’t believe my HRM, it was correct the oximeter read 138bpm and 98%O2. The next time was after a moderate climb and I hit 164 bpm (my doc say to stay under 160) Oximeter read 161bpm ( it took a few seconds to stop and put it on my finger) and 96% O2. It is also a good thing to have when I’m sucking wind and I can be sure it’s just from being out of shape vs a true loss of O2. I used it one more time when I started to feel tired and then after my cool down. I probably won’t bring it with me on a ride again until I do the century on May 1.

It is a useful tool to have if you work out on your own. It provides me with 2 things, 1: Ability to let me doctor know more information about my health & 2. Oxygen content of your blood is only a small factor when determining your risk for a cardiac event but it does provide me with a bit of assurance that my heart is doing O.K.

KEEPriding,

Eric

A New way of Life. Readers Story-

Just ran across your site. I really enjoyed reading your posts.

I’m 47 years old, mostly healthy, though out of shape. Saw the doc for a physical 5 months ago. Immediately was put on cholesterol and BP meds. 4 months later my blood pressure and cholesterol numbers were good and I had lost 15 lbs. Then I had my heart attack. I had it during my first visit to a gym while working with a trainer. A clot broke loose and I had an immediate 100% blockage of the circumflex artery.

I’m 4 weeks past that. Just been released for Cardiac Rehab. A strange thing happened during my stress test prior to release to rehab. I realized that I loved the exercise! They got my heart rate up to 150 bpm, and I loved every moment. This was probably because I’d been wondering if I was always going to be physically limited. I want to turn this new feeling into a new way of life.

I’m looking for ways to increase my fitness, especially after I’m done with rehab.

While Googling “bicycling after a heart attack”, I found your site. It really gave me a lift. It’s great reading about someone who has had cardiac issues, but still loves to ride.

You’ve given me inspiration to stay on track, increase my fitness, and above all, get back on a bike!

Thanks for sharing your experiences.

Tim

34 Years Old Who Had A Heart Attack And Has 3 Stents, Can He Still Snowboard?

I received a question from Jon and he was kind enough to let me post it here. Please feel free to add anything to our conversation through the comments link. 

“Hey Eric,

I had a heart attack 3 weeks ago at age 34 and had 3 stents put in. I’m on all the meds now and watching my diet. I just want to know if I will be ok to go snowboarding again next winter.

Jon.”

 


 

Cardiac Surgery Repairs Rescue Swimmer’s Mitral Valve


May 4, 2009
Robotic surgery gets patient back to his active lifestyle

San Diego – As a military rescue swimmer, 36-year-old Ronny German was in the best shape of his life and had no previous health problems. However, shortly after a routine dental cleaning, Ronny began to experience significant swelling in his joints, which his doctors initially diagnosed as rheumatoid arthritis — a condition that runs in his family. As his symptoms worsened, further examinations and testing revealed a heavily leaking mitral valve in Ronny’s heart.

Ronny was told that he would need an operation to repair his mitral valve and chose to have the procedure using minimally invasive robotic surgery. During the robot-assisted surgery, his surgeon discovered that Ronny’s mitral valve was extensively infected.

After surgery Ronny was informed that the infection was the cause of his leaking mitral valve, and it was likely the result of the dental cleaning he received before the onset of his symptoms.

“I was shocked to learn that a routine dental cleaning could have such a serious complication,” said German. “When I was diagnosed with a heart murmur, I was never told that I should be taking antibiotics when I was having even simple dental work done.”

A recent study from the University at Buffalo in New York linked bacteria commonly found in the mouth to an increased risk of coronary heart disease and other cardiac complications.

After a successful robot-assisted mitral valve repair, Ronny recuperated at home, and within two weeks was back at his job with the U.S. Coast Guard. He received medical clearance three months after returning to work and quickly passed his rigorous monthly fitness test. Since his surgery Ronny has taken up paddle surfing and currently participates in five- to nine-mile races, with hopes to complete the Catalina Crossing in the future.

Minimally-invasive surgery offers quicker recovery
“A leaking mitral valve is more common in older adults, but we do see patients with the condition as a result of infection,” said James Hemp, M.D., cardiothoracic surgeon with the Scripps Minimally Invasive Robotic Surgery Program. “Open cardiac surgery requires a significant amount of recovery time, but we were fortunate to be able to offer Ronny an option that would allow him to continue his very active career and lifestyle.”

Minimally invasive robot-assisted surgery provides access to the heart through five small incisions, eliminating the need for surgeons to split the breastbone and spread open the ribcage in order to gain access to the heart. During robot-assisted surgery, tiny instruments and a three-dimensional camera are inserted through the incisions, and the surgeon controls the instruments from a console that provides a magnified view of the surgical field.

This system enhances surgical capabilities by offering even greater precision during surgery. A patient typically stays in the hospital for three to five days after minimally invasive cardiac surgery, compared to five days or more after traditional heart surgery. While the average recovery time after open-heart surgery is six to eight weeks, recovery time with robot-assisted cardiac surgery is between two and four weeks.

About Scripps Health
Founded in 1924 by philanthropist Ellen Browning Scripps, Scripps Health is a $2 billion nonprofit community health system based in San Diego, Calif. Scripps treats a half-million patients annually through the dedication of 2,600 affiliated physicians and 12,300 employees among its five acute-care hospital campuses, home health care services, and an ambulatory care network of clinics, physician offices and outpatient centers.

Recognized as a leader in the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of disease, Scripps is also at the forefront of clinical research and graduate medical education.

Contact: Kristin Reinhardt
Phone: 619-686-3787
E-mail: reinhardt.kristin@scrippshealth.org

Scripps Mercy Hospital, Scripps Clinic, Minimally Invasive Robotic Surgery, Minimally Invasive Robotic Surgery

Riding Ave of The Oaks Century after Heart Attack

This Saturday is the Ave of the Oaks metric century ride. I choose this one because while riding 63 miles is not that hard for me at this point, doing it and 6000′ plus of climbing is. I’d say that’s a pretty decent climb for someone without a heart attack so it would be a good goal for me. I try just to be happy that I can ride at all but it’s hard not to compare myself with someone who has no heart problems and I love riding up hills, always have, even though I’m not good at it I’m just persistent that way. Below is the elevation chart.

Ave of the Oaks Century elevation chart.

Ave of the Oaks Century elevation chart.

I’ll be riding it with my PT from my old cardiac rehab program and one of my cardiologist. Which makes my wife extremely happy, even though she wishes I didn’t do it at all. I think I’m ready. While I haven’t ridden that distance in a while I have been riding lots of hills and doing 3,000′ climbs in 28-30 miles rides and some hill repeats so I feel ready and the best riding shape since my heart attack.

I’ll do my best to keep track of my ride and bring you a crank by crank report.

Eric

Please Tell Your Cardiac Story.

I’d (and I assume many others) would love to hear how you have dealt with, conquered or beaten heart disease. Do you still ride a bike, surf, mountain bike, bmx, skateboard, ski or snowboard since your heart attack or heart disease started? Any little story you have can go a long way in providing motivation for others who struggle with wanting to ride.

After you write your story here I’ll make a special page for it so other can communicate about it.

Thanks,

Eric