Bypass: Part 1

This post is for those that may be interested in the events of the last couple of weeks. Thank you very much for all of the prayers, love, and words of encouragement. I thank God for such good friends and an amazing family.

A little background: I am 53 years old and have been fairly active over my lifetime. I was an avid cyclist in my late teens and early twenties. Over the years, I have struggled a bit with my weight, fluctuating from my wedding day weight of 155 (in 1984) to 198 when my 8th son was born (in 2002). Shortly after I hit my high, I lost 40 pounds and eventually settled in the low 160s (I am 5′ 6″).

In early 2010, I bought a nice bicycle and started riding again. I really enjoy aerobic exercise and there are some great roads here in Orleans County (New York). My main riding partner is my 14-year-old son Jason. That first year, I rode 2,300 miles on the bike and finished with a 108 mile ride the length of NYS Route 19. I hadn’t been in such good shape in over 25 years. The next year, I rode 1,900 miles on the bike.

I have struggled to maintain fitness during the winters. You stop riding, but the cycling appetite doesn’t stop right away, so it’s easy to keep eating. This past winter my weight crept up to a high of 188. But we had big plans for 2012: I was to help lead a bunch of young men on a 380 mile ride across NYS along the Erie Canal. We had a great spring here, so by June 14, two days before the trip, I had 794 miles on the bike and had cut back to 176 lbs.

A week or so before the trip, things got a bit interesting. In spite of being in good cycling shape, I started having some lousy rides where I just didn’t feel right. To put things in perspective, here is an entry from my cycling log, one month previous:

5/17/2012 39 miles. Rode with Jason and Jonathan to Batavia library and back. Had a 16.1 mph pace to beat the darkness. Ate up the hills on NY 98. Felt terrific. Rated 9/10.

I was still having rides like this in early June:

6/6/2012 6:30 PM 23 miles. Rode solo to church via Barre, Clarendon, and Byron. Beautiful ride on a beautiful evening. Saw a nice rainbow.

Look at the contrast just 3 days later:

6/9/2012 8:26 PM 16 miles. Rode with Timothy to Albion then to Morriseys. Met Bill’s sister Joan. Suffered through the whole ride chasing Timothy. If all rides were like this, I wouldn’t be a cyclist.

6/11/2012 8:53 PM 16 miles. Rode with Jason west on 31 to Phipps Road to Eagle Harbor to 31 to Allen Road. Then rode around Albion and back home via Butts Road and 31. Felt lousy with tightness in chest for much of the way.

By now, I am sure you can see the warning signs for some real problems. I told my wife Sherry how I was feeling on the bike and she scheduled an appointment with my primary care physician for Wednesday. I had a normal EKG so she scheduled me for a stress-test on Friday, the day before the trip. I really wanted to go on the trip, so I wanted a least one more ride to see if the others were a fluke. Here is my log entry for my last ride that Thursday evening:

6/14/2012 8:00 PM 21 miles. Rode from Bike Zone with Joe Lodice and Jason. Felt lousy with chest discomfort and fatigue. Probably the worse ride of the year. I am going for my stress test tomorrow :-(.

Sure enough, the stress test on Friday showed an 80% chance of blockage in at least one of my coronary arteries. So I was officially grounded. But thankfully, my two sons and the rest of the group successfully finished the ride on Saturday, June 23rd. (If you are interested in learning about the trip, take a look at bike300.wordpress.com.)

Lord willing, I am going to add one or two more posts regarding what happened next. But I want to finish this post with a bit of advice. The cardiologist told me that had I been sedentary, this problem may not have surfaced for 10 or more years, and that I may have just dropped dead from a heart attack. It was the aerobic exercise that manifested the problem early. If you are mainly sedentary or don’t often stress your heart during exercise, I would strongly suggest that you have a stress test. It was really not bad at all as far as the process and it is apparently a good diagnostic tool.

Let me say it one more time. Perhaps your weight is under control, your cholesterol is good (like mine is), and you “work out” or exercise regularly. But if your heart-rate is never elevated for sustained periods of time, a heart problem may not show up. Get a stress test.

2 thoughts on “Bypass: Part 1”

  1. Wow Rick, thanks for the warning. I’m a small woman and weight has never been an issue for me. I’m definitely not a couch potato. I do exercise but I’m not an addict about it either. I go to the YMCA twice a week and do some cardio and light weights. I have never been able to run for whatever reason so I gave up trying a long time ago but on weekends when the weather is nice I try to take long fast pace walks. Unfortunately, the walks don’t happen as often as I’d like. Weekends are so busy I’ve just never been able to fit in 1 more weekly trip to the Y. Maybe I need to rethink my priorities! Thanks for sharing your story and best wishes for a quick and speedy recovery. May God Bless you!

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