“There’s one word to describe your condition…UNPREDICTABLE…”
“Your T-Wave is inverted…”
“You have Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy…”
“You had a thrombus in your right coronary artery…”
There are certain phrases that will always stick with you in life. The ones that I mentioned above are some phrases that I will never forget. I was diagnosed with Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy (HCM) in 2007. I went in for a routine physical and learned that my T-Wave was inverted. I eventually made my way to the Minneapolis Heart Institute to see Dr. Barry Maron. I was given the diagnosis of HCM. That was a game changer.
Fitness has always been a part of my life. From as far as I can remember, I’ve had a love affair with exercise! I ran cross-country in high school. I got into lifting in college. Now there was a chance that all of this was going to be taken away. Now instead of going to the gym and lifting heavy, I was now scared about whether or not I was going to into sudden cardiac arrest.
Ten years later I’m thankful to be alive. I’m 38 years old and in great shape. There have been some valleys I’ve crossed along the way. I decided to get an ICD after truly learning how HCM can be so unpredictable. My first one was planted in March of 2010.
On June 18th, 2014 I was at the gym around 3:15 p.m. on the treadmill. I felt a terrible pain in my jaw. I began sweating and felt extremely weak. At first I thought I was having a heart attack. I ended up having a thrombus in my right coronary artery. How did this happen? I have a left ventricular apical aneurysm. Patients who have HCM there is a potential nidus for apical thrombus formation. About 10% of these patients have had embolic events or clots visualized. In my case it appears this is what happened and became embolic to the right coronary artery. I’m currently on a blood thinner, and will have to remain on it. The interesting thing about all of this was that I made a medical journal. I’m in a case study in the American Journal Of Cardiology (May 1, 2015 Volume 115, Issue 9, Pages 1318–1319). Talk about a wake up call! I used to be in Pharmaceutical Sales for Pfizer Inc. and would present from this medical journal. Now I was in one! WOW! This was not what I was expecting.
The thought of not being able to exercise again crept into my mind. I was at a rehab center walking on a treadmill at 1.5 m.p.h. The thought of not being around for my son Joshua crept into my mind a lot. How much time do I have? Am I going to be around to help my son become a man? Will my son be afflicted with this terrible heart condition? Like David Watkins in his documentary, I thought to myself, “What is my legacy going to be?”
Thankfully, I have recovered well. I recently got my second ICD in December of last year. I’m getting strong again and staying in good shape. Living with a heart condition is both good and bad. It can overwhelm you if not careful. It can cause you to live a life of fear. I choose not to do that. Instead, I choose to use it to live by faith. Faith, Fitness, and Family is what can be found in my book called life. Life is short! Having an unpredictable heart condition helps me to appreciate more of what I have. Every workout is a blessing. Every hug is special. Being a preacher and Christian, I’m focusing on what’s ahead and not what’s in the past.
With the second chance I’ve been given, I want to motivate others to be the best they can be! I had an opportunity to speak twice at Bill Phillips Transformation Center in Golden Colorado this year to help motivate and encourage others with their fitness. I’ve created a blog (benjaminlee.blog) to help motivate and inspire others with the Faith, Fitness, and Family. I’m in the process of writing a book for those who struggle with weight. I’m also in the process of launching a website. I’m going to design some shirts for those who have an ICD. Most importantly, I’m really trying to live life to the fullest every day! I make my gratitude list daily and appreciate what I have! This isn’t about having a six-pack or running the fastest. This isn’t about the scale.
This is about LIFE! That’s what I’m enjoying!
I’m just getting started with the Ironheart Foundation. I’m thankful for this group and what it represents. I watched HEART:Flatline to Finish Line a few weeks ago. I was inspired. I then signed up to be a part of the Ironheart Facebook group! I’m ready to rock with the rest of the team. Let’s go!