Sunday, July 27, 2008

Sponsor Support

I would like to thank those that have sponsored and supported me to-date.
It has been very encouraging to have so many that feel that this is a worthy cause in getting the message out of the need for organ donations.
Special thanks goes to the following companies and organizations.

Financial Supporters:

  • Astellas
  • Goran consulting
  • Computronix
  • Canadian Transplant Association
  • Velocity Cycle and Jamis Bikes Canada
  • Subaru City
  • Dr. Burton
  • Brentwood Chiropractic

Donor Awareness Support:

  • HOPE Program (Capital Health)
  • British Columbia Transplantation
  • GoodHearts Mentoring Foundation

If there are other parties interested in supporting me either financially or in terms of raising donor awareness please feel free to contact me.

Confidence Fading

Based on my performance this past weekend due to the difficulty I was having with my neck and knees, my confidence and belief has been shaken in respect to my ability to complete an Ironman.
2 weeks ago I competed in the Heart of the Rockies Olympic distance triathlon and was pleased with the results in comparison to last years and had no issues on the ride or run. However, my performance in the Sylvan Lake 1/2 Ironman this past weekend was not nearly so stelar. I had serious problems with a stiff neck on the ride and IT related knee issues on the run that resulted in a much longer tri-time than what I had set as a goal (e.g. 6:38 hrs. vrs. 6:00).
I realize that the course was much more difficult than the Great White North tri course that I ran a couple years ago in 6:23 but then I hadn't been training as hard as I have been over the past 8 months. It's not so much the time that concerns me as the reason for the time. 1/2 way into the ride (45km) my neck was so sore that I had to contantly sit up and try to stretch and relax the shoulders and neck. 6km into the run my left knee started getting sore and through out the rest of the run I had to take additional walk breaks to ensure that the knee would hold up through the entire run which really impacted my time.
Unless there is something I can do to deal with these two issues I have very little confidence or faith that I would be able to complete the ride and run distances of an Ironman.
Does this mean that I am giving up or won't make the attempt; certainly not. I just have to be more determined to find a solution.
One positive thing I can take away from the Sylvan Lake 1/2 is that my recovery was almost immediate (e.g quads were not sore and the only discomfort experienced the day after has been a bit of soreness in the knees). I can't say what it was exactly that I did nutrition wise to cause this result since I was trying different things (e.g a new product called Monavie given to me by the husband of another heart transplant to try and taking in extra nutrition such as a power bar and Hammer Heed during the run).

Sunday, July 6, 2008

HBC Run for Canada (10 km)

July 1st, cities across Canada participated in the HBC Run for Canada in finanical support of our Canadian Olympians. I ran the race with a friend and fellow triathlete and one who had completed the Ironman multiple times. We ran the 10 km in 57 minutes. The course was up and down through the river valley in Edmonton which made the run a difficult and challenging one. Time wise Not to make any excuses but I believe I could have run it in less than 55 min. if I had not still been feeling fatigued from the heavy week of training before and if I had not stopped at each of the 3 water stations which added an additional 3 minutes to my time. In the end it was good to have supported our Canadian Olympiads in this way.

R & R: a Much Needed Rest

Well not exactly rest and relaxation but a break none the less with 2 days off and reduced training times. Until this last week I was feeling constantly fatigued partly due to the number of hrs. of training and partly due to the fact that I was not taking care of myself (e.g. getting enough sleep, proper nutrition, and liquids). I was beginning to wonder if I could keep up with the amount of training Ken was scheduling for me and began to even doubt my ability to complete a 1/2 Ironman let alone a full Ironman. My ride and run times were slowing and mymajor muscle groups (e.g. legs, back, shoulders) were sore every day. Even mentally I was feeling weak. I should not have doubted that Ken new just when I would need a rest week. As a result, in my ride and run today, I felt renewed energy and strength. I expect that this week will be the start of another cycle of building toward the times I need to be at in preparation for the Ironman.

My Story

What stories inspire men to dream and more importantly inspire them to achieve their own dreams? Are the stories that attract and inspire men so exceptional and so far beyond the grasp of human ability that men can only dream without the hope of ever achieving?

It has been said that exceptional men are simply common men that find themselves in extraordinary circumstances. Every day men all over the world (e.g. military personnel) find themselves in situations where they must either perform beyond their physical, emotional, and mental abilities, or die. Few men willing put themselves in situations where death, for the purpose of proving themselves extraordinary, is imminent.

What makes this story different than all the other stories of human will, faith, desire, determination, perseverance, strength, survival etc.
Why would anyone want to read my story? Is it any different than a 100,000 other stories of men that have overcome the odds in order to achieve their dreams. Maybe what makes a story unique and inspiring is not so much what was done in the face of overwhelming odds but the why and how any man, finding themselves in the same set of circumstances, has the potential within them self of achieving the same success.

It is my hope and prayer that my story will inspire people to not only dream but more importantly make their dreams a reality. It is faith in action that results in greater faith and action.

What did I do to deserve this?

I must have done something terribly wrong to deserve what happened to me on August 4, 1986 and which I have now had to live with for the past 21 yrs.
What did I do to deserve such a fate?
Was I abusive to my body?
Was I abusive to my wife?
Was I an evil man that God decided to punish?

A better question might be why not me?
I was no different than any other North American male. You will have to forgive me for labeling males in the same category of what I would describe as the typical North American male. I was egocentric in that all I wanted to do was enjoy life even if it meant taking time away from my wife of 3 yrs. so I could do those things that would provide the most excitement and self fulfillment in life. Week nights I was either, catching up on work, playing community league sports, or watching sports. Weekends, I was either, water skiing, playing football, camping, or playing golf. There was very little time for much else. Of course where I could I included my wife (Colleen) and those students I taught. Although I was not a partier in that I did not smoke or drink, I had an addiction to busyness and sport. Unless someone, or something, was to slow me down my life as a husband and future father was headed toward disaster. Then it happened.

What Happened?

In April of 1986 I came down with what I thought to be the flu. I had all the flu symptoms plus a few besides (e.g. aches, pains, nausea, migraines, fatigue to the point where I didn’t have enough energy to brush my teeth, lack of appetite, constant thirst). Common flu symptoms right? What I couldn’t figure out was why it was taking so long to get rid of this flu bug. Besides that when I laid down at night to sleep I felt as though I was suffocating and ended up having to sleep sitting up. After a couple weeks of nagging from Colleen I had finally had enough and went to the doctor. A doctor’s examination proved Dr. Dwight’s prognosis, as suggested to Colleen, was right, there was nothing wrong. However, the doctor did say that if I had difficulty sleeping that the evening I was to come in the next day for a chest x-ray and further tests. Wouldn’t you know it I ended up in the doctor’s office the next day. Upon further examination Colleen and I were called in for a private consultation with the doctor where he shared that there was something wrong with my heart. My response was “either fix it or just tell me what I need to take or do to fix it”. After all I was a fit and active 26 yr. old with a belief that all problems have solutions. Unfortunately it wasn’t quite that simple.

After being admitted to the Hospital and having two cardiologists provide their diagnosis of the situation I was given the news that no person wants to ever hear; your condition is terminal and there is nothing that can be done to reverse it. You will not live beyond your 28th birthday. If you have ever felt total hopelessness where you suddenly realized that there is nothing humanly possible that can be done; that was the feeling I felt for two days. If you have never had a sense of real hopelessness, I liken it to being dropped off, by your parents, at a camp where you don’t know anyone and the resulting feeling of loneliness that is felt in the pit of your stomach.

After a couple of days I had come to terms with the fact that I had a very short time to live and was ready to make the best of it. Knowing and sensing that there were hundreds of people praying for me throughout North America resulted in a peace that could only be described as the hand of God. My faith was still in tact believing that whether God wanted to take me or spare my life was ok with me. Then one morning the Cardiologists paid me another visit where they suggested that I consider a treatment that could result in adding years to my life. How many years they could not tell me. When I heard their suggestion I thought they were crazy. Why would I consider such a ludicrous option. Their suggestion was something that only happened in science fiction and horror movies. The cardiologists still encouraged me to consider the option and take a trip down to Tucson Az. where, at the Tucson Medical Center Hospital, they were performing, what in my opinion, was experimental research on human subjects. Who could imagine, 21 yrs. ago, that doctors were actually taking out a live people’s hearts and putting in dead people’s hearts. In any case since we were living in Phoenix at the time we would make the trip and meet with the people that were performing these “experimental” procedures.

When we met with the transplant team coordinator I made it clear from the start that I had no intention of agreeing to such a procedure unless they could prove to me that I would have every opportunity to live a normal live. Of course normal to me was the ability to do all that I had ever done before the transplant. They assured me that I would and showed me pictures of a transplant recipient that was doing triathlons. It seemed us that we were being given a lot of attention but didn’t give it much thought at the time. We were introduced to the head transplant surgeon (world renown Dr. Copeland) and other transplant recipients that were doing well. We were strongly encouraged to consider the option of a heart transplant and at least go through the “work-up” to determine if I would qualify as a candidate. We went back to Phoenix still believing that transplantation was not an option and that we would simply trust God to work things out. Over the next week after discussions with Colleen and continued deterioration of my health Colleen checked with the insurance carrier for her group plan and miraculously found that they had just determined transplantation to be clinical and would cover the entire down payment and transplantation costs. This was confirmation to us that we should go ahead with the work-up. The results of the work-up were, on the positive side, that I was a good candidate however the bad news was that it was estimated that my condition was more serious than first thought and had only 2 months to live.

To make a longer story shorter, with lots of patience, faith and prayer I received the call that a heart had been donated and was given new life 4 days short of 2 months on August 4th, 1986. Over the past 21 yrs. there have been many challenges as well as blessings. Colleen and I have 3 healthy boys, which we were told was a real miracle since there were issues around the effects of the medications on our ability to have children. All three boys have grown to be fine young men with whom I enjoy many outdoor and sporting activities. Colleen has been a tower of strength through all this and continues to show great patience and love for me during those times when I am moody and irritable. For the past 3 yrs. I have been training and running triathlons with a life goal to be the first Heart transplant to complete the Ironman which I hope to be realized August 24th, 2008.

Why the longevity?

What do I attribute my longevity as a Heart Transplant to:
· A faithful, loving God and family
· The transplant team of the University of Alberta that has taken care of me for 20 out of the 21 years post transplant.
· Dr. Mark Haykowski friend and researcher of the effects of exercise on the transplanted heart.
· Ken Riess friend and triathlon coach who inspires me to push the limits of a Heart Transplants physical fitness.
· GoodHearts Mentoring Foundation members that inspire me, in spite of the physical challenges they face, through their perseverance, determination, and desire to live healthy and productive lives.
· The organizations that promote donor awareness and support my efforts in becoming an Ironman.
Without these people in my life I would not be alive today let alone training and believing that I have the ability to complete an Ironman.

Final Questions

Two final question remain to be answered.

What motivates me to keep pressing on?

Does a Heart Transplant recipient have the ability to meet the requirements of both a physically and psychologically demanding exercise program in preparation for and completion of an Ironman event?