50:50 Chance

Meet my Uncle Mike: OR nurse by day, father and husband extraordinaire by night, Christ follower, and new runner enthusiast somewhere in between.

Mike and his daughter Lauren

Watch his story:


Read his story: On August 16, 2010 Mike survived a heart attack at 39 years old.  Obviously this came as a shock to all of us because he is young with an active job in the OR as a circulating nurse with no known health problems.

Usually during a heart attack, one of the vessels in the heart gets blocked with plaque or a blood clot.  Hearts cells die because they become starved for oxygen when blood flow is blocked.  Risks for this type of blockage include family history, lifestyle, and elevated cholesterol and triglycerides.   My uncle happened to have a structural defect in one of his vessels that was genetic.

His cardiologist wanted him to take 3 months from work and then complete 10 weeks of cardiac rehab 3 times a week.  One rehab session consisted of 5-10 minutes of stretching and breathing exercises followed by 45 minutes of aerobic activity on the treadmill, elliptical or stationary bike.  He was on the telemetry monitor so his heart was closely observed throughout the workout.  During rehab he started to enjoy the effects of regular exercise and notice changes in his fitness level.

Every few weeks, I’d get a phone call talking about how Uncle Mike was getting stronger and faster.  His peak speed increased and his peak pulse was gradually coming down (usually a sign of fitness).  When talking about his improvements he noticed that “his breathing was more comfortable and could feel his running become in concert with his heart”.

 I could tell my uncle was really excited about his progress.   He ran in the military during his 20’s and 30’s but  work, school, and raising a family meant exercise time was limited and eventually the weight crept up.  Now he figures out ways to make running a part of his routine and even looks forward to these workouts and lost 35 lbs since August!  It’s always so inspiring to watch somebody grow with their fitness and fall in love with a sport that has given me so much.

 What’s his typical workout schedule for the week?  Two short runs during the work week after 10-12 hours of standing on his feet in the OR and a long run early in the morning on either Friday or Saturday.  He’s started to keep himself more hydrated throughout the day and how to fuel his body.  “I start to mentally prepare for my runs even while I’m working. “  He’s considering incorporating weights into this routine to counteract lost upper body mass.

How does he prepare for long runs?  About 30 minutes prior he will eat a banana with peanut butter.  His mental preparation includes simply getting excited and by the end of the week his body starts to “crave the long run”.  The night before he makes should to get a good night’s rest.  Over the course of 4-6 months his long runs have worked up to 8-12 miles.  I’m so impressed!

What are his future goals? When the weather gets cooler, he’s interested in a competitive half marathon before the end of the year, possibly Disney’s Wine and Dine in October.  He also hopes to lower his PR of 28:42 from the Gasparilla 5K in March.

What motivated him to continue running after rehab?  One day his cardiologist said, “A guy your age with a [heart attack] has a 50:50 chance.  Embrace and see this as a beginning point.  There’s nowhere to go but up or you can think , OMG I had a heart attack and wallow in self pity.”  The cardiologist told him to “look at his capabilities, gain confidence and look at what he was doing for himself.”

 His next motivator was me, awwww 🙂 .  Now, he feels we have something in common on a new level.  He enjoys asking me different questions about running because he’s asking somebody with experience (well…more experience than him at least, haha).

What has he learned about running?  Hydration, hydration, hydration, and fuel.  He’s been experimenting by eating different things before and during long runs.  He’s also noticed for afternoon runs he needs to take lunch earlier than usual.  Clothing should light and breathable; he wants to feel the breeze.  He’s also found out that “you can’t just run in any shoe”.

It’s definitely been a learning process for Mike but one he’s enjoyed.

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2 Responses to 50:50 Chance

  1. Thank you for sharing this story about your uncle. It’s a good reminder to look at the positive half of the 50:50 equation and get on with what we are passionate about. Good luck to both of you!

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