Stephan was featured on Global News last week!
A few years ago I was what you might call your typical workaholic, frequent traveller, who was not getting enough sleep, watching a little too much TV, and eating foods that were not too lean and high in sodium content.
I also ran, swam and cycled regularly, thinking I could just shed the weight or at least retain a balance between my stress and eating habits and my body’s well being.
I thought I was the invincible professional that could go on forever without a care for how tired I was, how much stress I could handle and the food I ate.
Then, after many half marathons and mini triathlons from 2002 to 2009, on July 4th 2010, after just finishing another sprint triathlon, it happened.. I suffered a full blown heart attack with a 100% blockage of my right coronary artery.
I was very lucky that all the emergency services were at the site of the race. And all the paramedics were trained to deal with the situation. That the hospital’s emergency unit was not busy, and that the best cardiac surgeon was on call on a Sunday morning. Best of all, my spouse of more than 28 years recognized what was happening to me because his father had had a stroke 20 years earlier and took immediate steps to get help.
Later that day, in the cardiac unit while I was recovering, the nurse handed me all the pills I would have to take every day for the rest of my life.
She also gave me the most important book I ever received in my life written by the Heart and Stroke Foundation and provided for free to recovering heart attack and stroke patients. It explained in detail what had happened to me and gave me the hope and courage I needed to know that eventually I would recover.
I realized at that moment that I didn't understand the signs of this impending calamity during my training but in hindsight they were all there. Months before, I had experienced them: decrease in performance, a dizzy spell after a long bike ride, what felt like exercise induced asthma during my runs and swims (I never had asthma before). That last one was not asthma… it was angina, a very serious last warning before the big one.
Over the next few years I slowly worked back into my swim, bike and running routines, waiting patiently to get back to my first tri. In 2012 I joined the Toronto Triathlon Club and by July of that same year I finished my first post heart attack Sprint at the Toronto Triathlon Festival.
On July, 2013, almost three years to the day of my heart attack, I successfully finished my first Olympic Distance triathlon, (a sport that my cardiac surgeon urged me to get back into after he implanted a stent in my right coronary artery). Thanks to the research and the information that the heart and stroke foundation provided, I have regained my life and my strength.
I am proof positive that it can happen to anyone at any age. I am also proof that you can recover with the help of well-funded research and information.
Thanks to the Toronto Triathlon Club for being there and providing all the great programs that went a long way to enabling me to recover fully.