Athlete Jay Wiener gives this firsthand account on recovering from mitral valve repair and his journey to getting back into the race.
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Two months after having mitral valve repair at Cleveland Clinic, I found myself back in the race. My first test was the American Cross-Country Ski Marathon in Northwest Wisconsin. I felt better at the end of that race than I had in a long time.
“I listened to my body. I monitored myself carefully, knowing to quit if any issue arose.”
My next challenge was the Polish National Cross-Country Ski Marathon, where my confidence and recovery were truly tested: An out-of-control skier broke my right pole at the fourth kilometer with forty-six kilometers to the finish.
I have seen skiers continue with broken poles, but I was pushing my luck to ski marathons within two months of surgery to begin with. And I promised my loved ones and physicians that I would proceed cautiously.
I found a replacement pole at the ninth kilometer—after the second longest climb in the race. I lost time, but ultimately overtook other skiers without pushing myself too far. What truly mattered most to me was being back in the race.
A testament to the best in heart care
After surgery, returning to normal activity increased my strength and wellbeing. My recovery centered on my skiing.
I listened to my body. I monitored myself carefully, knowing to quit if any issue arose. Attention to detail allowed the completion of two cross-country ski marathons within two months of cardiac surgery.
I subsequently experienced a brief setback—a recurrence of atrial fibrillation—which Eric Roselli, MD, my cardiac surgeon at Cleveland Clinic, said was of little concern. He encouraged me to “keep up the great work.” My Internist said that I was every surgeon’s dream. But in my mind, there was no alternative to getting the best care and returning to an active life.
Today, I am happily home, focusing on daily life—after the weeks of preoperative issues, surgery and initial recovery, conditioning to race again, and participating in marathons. Now I know I can conquer bigger challenges and I will continue to pursue sports. Hopefully, my story inspires others to do the same.