Tuesday, January 24, 2012

New Year. New Adventures.

My next post for the ACHA blog explores the exciting opportunities ahead for me in 2012. It's scheduled to be published tomorrow.
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I don’t know about you, but 2012 is off to a pretty fantastic start for me! After a challenging few months at the end of 2011, I finished the year with a long, but quite successful, stent procedure (December 29). I then rang in the new year with an electrophysiology study (January 9) that came back negative, meaning that I’m not a likely candidate for getting an ICD!

Having not been on my bike since my accident back in early August, I’ve been going a little stir crazy lately. This past weekend, I decided to join my local gym, and just yesterday I met with a personal trainer for the very first time. During our introductory meeting, I knew I’d have some explaining to do about my medical information (open heart surgery at eight months, getting a stent less than a month ago, and now on a post-procedure regimen of Plavix and baby aspirin). Oh yeah—and I listed “train for a half marathon or triathlon” as one of my exercise goals. The look on the trainer’s face was priceless as I gave him the elevator speech version of my medical history and the fact that I had done multiple distance bicycling rides over the past few years. I assured him that I was feeling great, that I was under the care of excellent cardiologists, and that I would formally get their okay the next day to start an endurance training program.

As I drove to my doctor’s appointment this morning (a follow-up for my recent stent procedure), the sun was shining here in Chicago, and I was feeling good. I hadn’t had any unusual pain or discomfort post-procedure, and I was looking forward to an appointment that didn’t require a hospital gown and an IV. My two cardiologists—the director and co-director of the hospital’s ACHD program—work closely together, and both gave me a clean bill of health at today’s appointment! When I told them I was interested in training for a half marathon or a triathlon—neither of which I had done before—they just said, “Great!” I was given no physical restrictions and told that, when I come back in the summer for my 6-month checkup, they want to hear about my training. (So now I have to be accountable not only to my trainer, but to two expert ACHD cardiologists, as well: Game on!)

Over the past month or so, I have started thinking seriously about becoming certified as a personal trainer and/or a USA Cycling coach as a way to compliment my love of riding and physical activity. Today’s appointment just gave me another boost of confidence, and I expect that I will start studying for the CPT (Certified Personal Trainer) exam in the coming weeks. I even got some great tips about it from my trainer when I told him that I was thinking about pursuing the certification.

Although I didn’t make any formal New Year’s resolutions for 2012, I feel like I’ve charted a new and exciting course (no pun intended) for the rest of this year. In addition to deciding between the half marathon and the triathlon, I need to select the major cycling event (or two!) that I’ll be doing. So there are plenty of exciting adventures ahead for me this year.

As I get ready to train for these challenges ahead, I am so incredibly grateful that I can do them. As someone who—prior to this past August—hadn’t been to a cardiologist in years, I never really thought of myself as a heart patient. But the journey that I went through the last few months helped me realize how truly fortunate I am, and it has caused cycling (and other forms of physical activity) to take on a whole new meaning. I now ride not only for myself (I do love it!), but also in honor and memory of those who cannot. And I hope that one day, when I’ve become a personal trainer myself, I will have the opportunity to work with clients who want to overcome their own physical obstacles—cardiovascular or not—because it has now become a very personal matter.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Electrophysiology Study

I went to the University of Chicago Medical Center today for my electrophysiology study to assess for arrhythmias in my heart that potentially may have caused my bicycling accident back in August. The result of the study was negative, which meant that they were unable to medically induce an arrhythmia (with the exception of a very brief one). Had the test come back positive (and they were able to induce an arrhythmia), it would have been followed by a serious discussion about me getting an implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD). While a negative result doesn't provide as clear of an answer for doctors regarding next steps, personally I'm pretty happy that an ICD is not a likely part of my immediate future. I have a follow-up appointment with the electrophysiologist next month to discuss options for ongoing monitoring of my heart's electrical activity.