Board Member, Ellen, is proud to be the first female member of the Ironheart Team. 

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In March 2010, at age 41, Ellen was diagnosed with a severe congenital heart defect and given just months to live. She had been training for a triathlon and during her long training bike rides she started to lose vision in one of her eyes.

By chance, her primary care doctor had referred her for tests to the Cleveland Clinic. The results had left the doctors perplexed until a vascular specialist noticed an unusual murmur in Ellen’s heart caused by multiple holes in heart.   Doctors called it “Swiss Cheese”. She was very quickly transferred to the excellent care of the cardiac team at the number one hospital in the US for heart care and within two weeks she underwent open heart surgery that saved her life.

Ellen was determined to have a speedy recovery, and one that would allow her to start up her training again. Eight months after her surgery she completed her first ever IRONMAN having found a new lease on life and with a determination to prove to the world that anything is possible if you set your heart on it.

With her very sudden diagnosis, Ellen was left with so many questions, both before and after her surgery. As she went through recovery, she sought answers online and found only limited information.   While looking, she came across Dave Watkins and his Ironheart Racing Team website, a small group of cardiac patients that had gone on to compete in races and sporting events.  As the team’s first woman athlete, Ellen was proud to join them. This gave her a new sense of camaraderie and purpose as she met people who, like her, knew what it was to have open heart surgery and to get back on their feet again.

Luck had played its part so many times in Ellen’s incredible story and as time passed she felt that she wanted to do something to prevent luck being the only thing out there to save people with cardiac issues.   She also wanted to find a way to provide more education and knowledge to others who were facing the sudden prospect of open heart surgery to save their lives.

Over the years she and Dave worked to grow the Ironheart Racing Team and together with the support of husband, Donald, became a founding Board Member of the Ironheart Foundation, a 501(c)(3) charity.

Ellen is a chartered accountant from England with over 25 years of experience in accountancy and business consulting. Ellen is also an author and published her first book (Living Life to the Full: My Ironman® Journey) in February 2011 which was an account of her personal story through open heart surgery to racing the IRONMAN.   She is also a cast member and Co-Producer of HEART: Flatline to Finish Line an incredible documentary that has a vision to ‘Inspire, Change and Save Lives’ while raising funds for the Ironheart Foundation.

– Ellen Charnley, Las Vegas, NV