Sunday, September 20, 2009

It can only Happen to Me!

It has been said that if something bad or nasty is going to happen it is going to happen to me. Some people are just born to be unlucky. Although I don't believe in luck but that there is a design and reason for everything that happens, if I did believe in luck I would have to be one of those people that never win anything and if you had a room of 50 people and something bad was going to happen to any one of them, it would be me.
I bet I am the only runner that has ever been hit in the back of the head by a hawk. Years ago I was running out of town when I heard a hawk squealing overhead. I didn't think anything of it and continued running. The next thing I knew something, what felt like a 5lb sack of flower, hit me in the head. It stunned me for a minute and I was at a loss as to what it could have been. Then I heard the squeal of the hawk overhead again and saw that it was circling back behind me away from the sun. As I checked over my shoulder I saw the hawk begin to dive for a second attack. I headed into the ditch to find a rock or something to throw. Just as I bent over to pick up a rock the hawk brushed my hair. Once I had the rock in hand the hawk didn't bother to attack any more.
Sunday, Sept. 20, 2009 @ 6:00 AM I had an encounter that I will not forget. As some know, I live just outside of town. I enjoy living out of town because I can go for a run or a bike ride without having to deal with lights or traffic. However, training in the country also has it's challenges from dogs that think they can intimidate you to bugs that like to fly into your face, mouth, nose, and ears. I especially hate the little yappy dogs that chase you only as long as you have your back to them.
On this particular morning I had just headed out for an early morning, leisurely, 3hr. run. Now realize that at this time of year sunrise is not till 7:00 AM so it was quite dark. Also realize that the lazer surgery to correct my vision resulted in night blindness meaning that I limited vision in poor lighting. As I was running I saw a cat start to run from a neighbors driveway across the road. I thought it was cat because this little black blog ran like a cat and was low to the ground. As I got closer, within about 20 feet, what I thought was a cat was really a small dog. When I got to within 10 feet of the animal I thought, boy this creature really looks strange. I appears to be standing on it hind legs, either that or it had very skinny neck. I really couldn't make out what it was other than it seemed to be heading right toward me as if it was going to attack me or maybe just wanted me to pet it. I wasn't in any mood to stop and pet it. Besides, I didn't remember our neighbor even having a dog. My response to the dog was "go on, get out of here". At that the dog turned and headed back in the direction it had come. Then I heard a strange sound. Almost like the dog was shuffling it's paws. There was this sound like a squirt gun; Tsss, Tsss. Then there was this all to familiar smell causing me to gag and my eyes to water. Indeed, what I thought was a small dog was, you guessed it, a skunk.
Well, I finished the run, thankful for the wind and knowing that I couldn't very well go home until I had aired out. Colleen did some research to find out what could be done to get rid of skunk smell which meant submerging both my clothes and myself in a tub full of water and vinegar.


SixTwoThree said...

Okay, when I first read this title on my little Blackberry, I was worried. Glad your wife found the magic potion to tame the stink! I'm super nearsighted too, so I can only imagine what I would do!!

SpinWithNicholas said...

I enjoyed your blog Dwight, Encouraged me, Nicholas

KevR said...

Dwight, I am very encourage by your success. I completely understand the hurdles and frustration you went through. I competed in many ½ IM triathlons and also completed my first marathon in 2008. In January 2009 I was diagnosed with Giant Cell Myocarditis, a rare autoimmune heart disease that can only be stopped with a heart transplant. In July 2009 I received a heart from a very generous (and still anonymous family.) I immediately started to train again and I am encountering some of the same frustrating “walls” that you hit. I have emailed Ken and hopefully will be in touch with him. It is good to know that someone has broken the IM barrier and that it can be done. You are a true trailblazer and an inspiration. Kevin

Justin said...

Very encouraging Dwight, my story is so similar to yours it is scary, I was diagnosed with end stage heart failure when I was 19. Same flu like symptoms and not being diagnosed right away. I was put on the list about 2 months ago and it is so good to see I will be able to return to normal endurance activities after transplantation. Thanks for taking time to write this!

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marry said...

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BJR said...

Dwight, I'm training for my first Ironman. As a kidney recipient, I think I have it a little easier than a heart recipient! I'm excited to see so many transplant recipients doing such amazing stuff.

Bryan Rollins
Austin, TX

Allie Weese said...

My I am Allie an I got a new heart about 10 months ago, I am 22 years old. I am just getting into cycling. Have you heard of Klye Garret? He has completed an Ironman after transplant and is having a team of heart tx men doing the ironman in Nov 2010 as a relay.
Hope to hear how you are doing!

faj9778 said...

IS VERY GOOD..............................

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?