Hi – It’s Ben! As most of you know, a little over a year ago, in November 2014, I had open heart surgery to repair my aortic valve as well as what was well on its way to an aortic aneurism. My aorta had grown from 3.3 cm to 5.0 cm in less than a year (3mm growth is cause for monitoring). A rupture can occur above 5 cm and this is where the danger of bleeding out and death comes into play. Fortunately, my surgery was a complete success, repairing the valve and replacing a section of my aorta without the need for an artificial valve or tissue.
I was diagnosed with this congenital heart defect at a young age, routinely had things monitored (annual echo and EKG) and didn’t expect to have any complications or the need for surgery until much later in life. For the most part, I enjoyed all things and didn’t have any limits on physical activity. I completed my first Ironman Triathlon in 2008 in 11hrs and 46 minutes – for those that don’t know, the Ironman is a long distance triathlon consisting of a 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike ride, and a 26.2 mile marathon, all back to back.
My wife and I also just had our third child on March 11, 2016 which also happens to be my mother’s birthday. During this time, I truly reflect on the unbelievable gift of family and just how scared I was during that time of surgery. My wife was a rock and was strong for our other two children, Kenenger and Bauer.
After surgery began the long road of recovery. The recovery phase was defeating, my running was terrible and my heart rate took forever to get back to any kind of normal range – and I’m no dainty runner’s frame so it made things a little more challenging. It did make one thing very clear – I love my family, challenging myself and being able to compete in these types of events. I also can’t imagine all of the other individuals and families similarly impacted who may not have the same positive outcome or ability to compete in such a challenging event.
This is why I have chosen to support the American Heart Association and specifically Physicians like Dr. Keith Horvath who perform these miracles every day and work to find additional methods and cures for congenital diseases that impact approximately 1 out of 100 births. I will be competing in Ironman Boulder on August 7th 2016 in honor of all the families that struggle each and every day with these conditions. The time alone during the race allows for significant reflection, however this year, every time I feel pain or the desire to stop and walk, I will know that I have been given the gift of life and will keep fighting to demonstrate what can be done even with what we may feel are limitations.
Thank you for visiting my fundraising page and reading my story. Please consider donating to this amazing cause! Strong Like Bull.