Occupation: Registered Nurse and Orthopedic Surgery Team Leader
Hometown: Albuquerque, New Mexico
Time Cycling: 5 Months
Start Weight: 220 pounds
End Weight: 195 pounds
Reason for Cycling: For my health and to motivate people like myself to start riding.
Cycling helped me discover I had a heart problem in 2013. I was riding up a long hill home from work and felt some pain in the crook of my left elbow. I had been in the middle of ramping up my mileage, and I knew that the pain signaled something wasn’t quite right, but I hardly thought anything of it.
Months lather, I went to see my family practice doctor and when he listened to my heart, it reminded me of the elbow pain, so I asked him to check it out. I got an EKG and they discovered that 98 percent of my left anterior descending artery was blocked; I was so close to a widowmaker—the most lethal type of heart attack you can have. I had just done a 35-mile bike ride and luckily nothing happened. I had a stent put in my heart to take care of the blockage.
Then, about four years ago, I had a mild heart attack at work. I could tell something wasn’t right, so I walked into the ER and they found that my right coronary artery was totally blocked. They had to put three stents in my heart to get through the blockage.
Around the time of my mild heart attack, I had stopped riding as much as I used to. Then, I had knee replacement surgery in February 2019 to fix an ongoing injury from a ski accident in 1989. At the time of surgery, it was almost too painful to walk. Though I had let myself go, I was still in fairly decent shape. My job requires me to be on my feet all day, so after surgery I was able to walk the same say. And by day four I was walking a mile and a half. So I started to work on range of motion in my knee and thought cycling would be a great way to do that. However, I kept putting it off and putting it off and didn’t actually start riding until May of this year.
The world was wrapped up in the pandemic when I got back on the bike, which has been causing bike shortages, but luckily I had an old Specialized bike I had to special-order in 2006 because I’m so tall. And when I got back on the bike, there weren’t any issues with my knee.
Before I started riding again, I had a major potato chip addiction, I probably ate too much red meat, and I drank lots of high-fructose corn syrup beverages—I loved Clamato juice. Now, I eat chips every now and again, but I cut out the Clamato juice.
My wife is vegan, so I eat a lot of plant-based meals, and she cooks really healthy for us. I eat lots of fruits and veggies, and while I still eat some red meat, I’ve cut back a lot.
I bike commute to work, about four miles roundtrip. It’s a lot of work to get on the bike and change into my scrubs and reverse the process for such a short ride, but I keep doing it daily.
Since I started riding about five months ago, I’ve ridden more than 2,000 miles. I had my annual appointment with my cardiologist the day I passed this milestone, and she said that my heart looked great and there were no issues. I always carry nitroglycerin with me, which can be used to widen the arteries and reduce the heart’s workload, relieving chest pain related to blocked arteries, but I don’t have to do any heart rate monitoring on my rides.
I know cycling has helped my heart immensely. After my heart surgeries, I was put on two blood pressure medications. By July, after just starting to ride in May, I was able to get off one and cut the dose in half for the other. The only reason I stay on that one is because it has some protective benefits.
Before the year is up, I want to do a century ride. Next year, I’m hoping to double my mileage and go at least 5,000.
I would really like to be able to help “older” people like me to discover what is within and what a person can do with a bicycle despite age and infirmity. I would like to help people who have had a joint replacement discover that they are at the gateway to a revitalized lifestyle. I try to do this with my patients whenever possible, but I would like to reach more older people like me who may have a total hip or total knee replacement.
I would also like to help motivate people like myself who have survived a heart attack and who find themselves with a new lease on life because they have four stents in their heart. If I could help just a few more people know that there are still great things that they can be doing for their health I would really feel that my journey has a greater purpose.
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