Monday, August 18, 2008

Six Days

Since the Sylvan Lake 1/2 life has been very busy.
Although the week of Aug. 10th was supposed to be a tapper down period I was busier than ever. Not so much with training but in preparation for a weekend canoe trip.
I had hoped to do some extra leg and neck strengthening exercises but didn't even have enough time to get in all the training that had been scheduled. Over the next couple of days I will be trying to get in the swims that I missed over the weekend. This evening I did a 50 min. ride and 2100 meters in a 25 meter pool so there was a lot of turning. I didn't track my time but felt that my pace was a little faster than race pace. I was a little fatigued toward the end so the last 400 meters were a little slow. I am still finding that my neck is getting tight and sore both on the ride and in the swim. I will really have to focus on relaxing the shoulders. Paddling 120km over 2 days probably didn't help the shoulders and neck either. My shoulders are still a little sore.

Something that has been really encouraging and exciting is that TSN will be doing and interview and filming me prior to and during the triathlon. I was also asked if my family and I would come to the Athletes dinner on Friday evening and sit in the VIP section. I don't know what the program is like for the Athletes dinner but I am hoping that I will be given the opportunity to share my story and the great need for everyone to sign a donor card or register on a organ donor registry as well as tell their family their wishes. The Penticton Western News will be running an article on me as well.

As one of my sponsors, a couple of representatives from Astellas Pharmaceutical will be in town tomorrow and have invited me to dinner.

We will be leaving Edmonton for Penticton Wed. afternoon staying in Golden for the evening and carrying on the rest of the way on Thurs.


Carol Becker said...

go dwight go!

Carol B.

wendyreigh said...

Hi Dwight,Just reading about you in this mornings Province newspaper has really has made me feel a hole lot different about getting a new heart.You see 2 just Years ago I was a healthy 47 year old women.plowing snow in Whistler in the winter months for 6 years and I also drove a 30 ton rock truck when it wasen;t snowing ,I just loved it not a care in the world.And then just like you it all came to a halt in aug 2006.never having any heart problems in my life, until make a long storey short,the doctors told me my heart ejection fraction was at 20% and after an assesment for 6 months they told me I would need a heart transplant.I couldn't believe what they were saying to me.I thought they were getting me mixed up with somebody else.they also said they would put an icd in to help keep me alive until I would get a new heart.but the waiting list to have the icd in would be 2to3 months.2 weeks later I blacked out at home,the doctors then did emergency surgery to put in the icd. during the sugery I almost died haveing to difibulate me 8 times, they told me I was very lucky to be alive. well in January st judes the company that makes my icd sent me a letter saying mine may be one thats giving people some cases it wasen't detecting peoples heart arrhythmias so a few months ago the doctors tried ajusting it . as in my case my heart was going to fast.well I went to the doctors a few days ago and yes it had not detected a few arrhythmias my heart icd has 2 leads going into my heart one in the lower chamber and one in the upper chamber,some people have all the luck and I just happened to be one of them,one of my leads[ Riata] is also giving people now the doctors want to put a third lead in.I go back to my heart doctors on Sept 10 for an eccocardiogram and then they will let me know when they will do it.I'm so scared I don;t know what to think anymore.but just reading about you this morning has put a hole lot of hope in everything Iam going through right now thankyou so much and good luck xoxo wendyreigh

Cliff said...

Hey Wight,

I found your blog from a friend. I had a liver transplant when I was 11. I am 28 now and I did an Ironman last year (IMUSA).

Enjoy your experience. It will be a blast.

I am thinking of doing Olympic Transplant games in Australia as well. Too bad they don't have triathlon :P

You are doing a good job in promoting organ awareness :o)

I read your previous post that your confidence is fading. If it makes you feel any better, three weeks prior to IM, I had a bike accident and tore my right shoulder. This means that i can't rotate my right arm.

I got a lot of people telling me to swim one arm. Good thing by race day I was able to swim :). I took a lot of down time. That was good b/c during my downtime I was very well recovered.

You have done all the hard work that needs to be done. Now just sit back and enjoy the ride...

I heard the IMCanada is a lovely course ;)

Scott said...

One of your questions is "what motivates me to carry on?"

My answer -- Because you can.

I am similar to other posts I have seen on your blog. I was diagnosed with HCM -- Hypertrophic Cardio Myopathy when I was sixteen. I was a high level hockey and rugby player at the time. The doctor's instructions "stop playing or you could die suddenly without warning"

Okay! Where do I go from here. I am an athlete. I can't just stop.

I guess luckily I did as I did not end up like Mickey Renaud of the Windsor Spitfires, Hank Gathers of Loyola Marymount, and many others. (luckily Jiri Fischer had two doctors at the Red Wings bench who knew what to do).

I have been on drugs for the last fifteen years. I have an ICD (Internal Cardiac Defibrillator)and I recently went through septal ablation surgery where they injected alcohol through a catheter into a portion of the heart muscle to trigger a heart attack and hopefully kill the extra septal tissue.

Run because you can. So many people waste perfectly good hearts smoking. I would love to lace up the skates one more time and play a game of pick-up hockey without worrying if this next step will be my last.

Good luck and be safe. Don't continue if you don't feel right (that is a male tendency that I have surrendered to from time to time). All of us heart patients are behind you.


James White said...

A friend of mine strongly recommended me to read your blog. So that’s why I am here. You have gathered different kinds of information which are very helpful for people who have some sort of heart problems.

Online Marketing Solution

James White

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?