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Reasons to Run

Nov 8

Posted by: ACHA
11/8/2012 8:39 AM  RssIcon

By Jon Ritchings, Jr.

It's three months post-op for me and I'm starting to run. I don't run far—maybe 500 or 600 feet before my lungs feel like they are about to explode and my knees are screaming for me to stop. I'm out there, though, and I'm doing it and I'm getting a little better at it every day.

People now ask me, why? It's so hard on your body and you’re gasping for breath. Especially with a heart condition. For me, there are three reasons:

  1. I spent the last ten years in heart failure. When it began I went from almost no symptoms to being too sick to have surgery. I used walking to battle back from a point where they thought my only option would be a transplant. I know it's not running, but I was moving at my maximum speed for that time. I don't have that problem anymore because I was able to get well enough to have surgery to repair my heart.
  2. I'm 41. I went almost 41 years without a pulmonary valve. I made it to 30 without any symptoms or signs of problems from it. When I did show problems I confounded doctors by doing things they didn't think were possible. I attribute that to my love for exercise. Throughout my twenties I would spend six days a week in the gym. I would spend 45 minutes lifting weights and run 6-7 miles. I was in great physical shape and I truly believe that my exercise habit kept the symptoms at bay longer than normal. When my symptoms did appear, they did not affect my ability to lead as normal a life as I had already been leading—I believe this was because I started in good physical condition.
  3. The last reason is the simplest of all of them. Because, I can. And with hard work (and after first making sure it’s OK with your ACHD cardiologist), maybe you could too.

Jon Ritchings, Jr., is a 40-year-old father who was born with pulmonary atresia and hypoplastic right heart syndrome. Although he has made a career in retail, he prefers to be outdoors kayaking and taking photos. Jon likes to draw inspiration from quotes and one of his current favorites is from Lao Tzu: “I have just three things to teach: simplicity, patience, compassion. These three are your greatest treasures.”

Copyright ©2012 ACHA

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1 comment(s) so far...


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Re: Reasons to Run

I love it Jon! And completely get it.
I was born with tricuspid atresia and up until my transplant had difficulty keeping up with just about every person I knew. As a child, the nickname Turtle seemed apropos.
I have walked every single day since my surgery. Now eight months post transplant, my legs no longer scream for me to stop. My heart beats fast and furious as if to say, let's get moving. Now, the tables have turned. My family and friends can hardly keep up to my pace, and I have difficulty slowing down to theirs.
What's the problem, I wonder. I'm the heart patient...
Funny how life turns out!

By Lorie Hill on   11/12/2012 12:25 PM

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