On March 26th 2010, Cardiac surgeon at the Cleveland Clinic, Dr Tomislav Mihaljevic, performed open heart surgery to fix multiple holes in my heart. I was born with a severe congenital heart defect and was told that I required surgery to prevent my heart failing. The right side of my heart was severely enlarged as it worked three times as hard to compensate for the holes which were scattered throughout the inner septum. I had no idea, I had such a defect, I was a fit athlete and had been competitively racing triathlons for almost 7 years. My heart defects had gone undetected for 41 years and it took the highly trained ear of Dr Heather Gornik to hear my heart murmur.
Following the surgery, Dr Mihaljevic was confident I would be up and running again soon enough. Five months earlier, I had signed up for my first ever Ironman distance Triathlon which was to take place in November 2010. An Ironman triathlon is 2.4 miles of swimming, followed by 112 miles of biking finishing with 26.2 miles of running. This was going to be tough enough without having to factor in open heart surgery at the beginning of my training plan!
My head recovered faster than my body but nevertheless by the summer I was back to full training after receiving another workup and an “orange” light to at least continue my training, from my cardiologist Dr Krasuski.
On November 21st, 2010, almost 8 months to the day since my surgery, I crossed that finish line in my first ever Ironman in a time of 12 hours and 37 minutes, and I have never felt so alive.
I published my memoir in February 2011 so in May 2011, I returned to the Clinic to share my journey and launch my book. I also ran the Cleveland Marathon on Mar 15th in a time of 4 hours exactly. This was a phenomenal race and full of emotion, especially as I ran past the Clinic and remembered everything that I had been through over the past year. The doctors at the clinic helped save my life and for that I will be eternally grateful.
For more information please visit www.ellenliveslifetothefull.com.