“I want to inspire people. I want people to look at me and say that because of you, I didn’t give up.”

Luis feature 600x400I arrived in Switzerland four years ago, filled with hope for a better life for me, my wife and (now) 13 years old daughter. It was only four months after I arrived that I had the “stroke.” Everything crumbled – all of the plans … all of the dreams… I had bicuspid aortic valve, aortic aneurism, and aortic dissection.

I was one of the lucky ones. I entered the emergency room at Lausanne’s CHUV hospital around 20 minutes after the stroke with an enormous chest pain that didn’t go away even with all the morphine. A doctor explained the situation, and the odds were against me. He asked me if I wanted to say something before they gave me the anesthetics. I remember clearly what I said, “Please do the best that you can because this mustn’t end here. I still have a lot of plans, and I want to bring my wife and daughter to Switzerland.”

They flew in the surgeon. The aneurysm ruptured right in the beginning of the surgery.   I was in a coma for two days, and I’m still here thanks to all of those lucky moments one right after the other.

As part of my recovery, I started to learn how to walk again and a few weeks later, jogging. It’s incredible how our body loses strength in just a few days. I remember while I still in the hospital they told me just to try to go up the few stairs and how my legs were shaking. I cried. Everything was so new and so overwhelming. I felt broken.

I was also diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and struggled to remake myself. It wasn’t fun… It was the most difficult time. All that, and being in a new country with a new language (I’m in the french speaking part of Switzerland), wasn’t what I had planned.

But, things gradually got better. Together with a friend, I formed an international running group on Facebook, Velocimonsters, which consists of more than one hundred amateur runners from (for now) in five different countries, who motivate each other on going further and further.

In 2014 I ran and finished my first ever marathon in Rio de Janeiro where I met a lot of amazing and inspiring people! I was one of the 25 2014 Medtronic Global Heroes. I was chosen due to my heart condition and for having an implanted mechanical aortic valve and for, despite all that, continuing to run and live life to the fullest. I ran the Twin Cities Marathon only two months after my first one. That was crazy, I know.

In 2015, I fell in love with running in the mountains. I ran one of the most beautiful trail running events in the World here in the Alps of Switzerland, the Sierre-Zinal. It was painfully magical.

Before my surgery, I was a very physically active person. I used to play indoor soccer, Futsal. I used to do skateboarding. I was the Portuguese street inline skating champion, and I ran a bit too (2 or 3 miles from time to time). My cardiologist later told me that my activity may have been what kept me from having valve problems sooner.

I’m always looking to find ways to reinvent myself.  I want to create awareness about heart disease and specifically on the benefits of practicing sports and getting people off of the couch.

I want to inspire people. I want people to look at me and say, “because of you, I didn’t give up.”

-Luis Silva, Neuchatel, Switzerland