Who would surmise that a marathon runner triathlete with a healthy
vegan diet would find her/himself plagued by cardiomyopathy resulting
in heart failure??? Certainly not me!
My introduction to veganism commenced approximately eight years ago
following a bout of depression after having been brutally attacked by a
pit-bull leaving a gaping wound in my calf and puncture wounds in my
hamstring and buttock. After the wounds closed, I commenced intensive
physical therapy at which time I was, to my sadness, informed that I
would have permanent nerve damage and problems with proprioception
(reaction to stimuli). In short, it was suggested that I ‘retire’ from
running! I have always had a great deal of energy (family members felt
in excess!) which I was able to dissipate via intense exercise (e.g.,
distant swimming, cycling, running, kayaking, karate, etc.!). In my
frustration, I gained a tremendous amount of weight and tipped 200
lbs!! (I am now l22 lbs.) I was also, in my opinion, the worst type of
vegetarian: lacto-ovo, causing my cholesterol to climb to close to 190!
Additionally, my blood pressure was elevated. In short, I felt like a
My adult children would not be enablers, and suggested that I DO
something about my physical state. (At the time, I didn’t appreciate a
lack of sympathy!) They suggested that I go to NAVS’ “Summerfest” in
Johnstown, PA, where one of my children had gone the previous year. I
was told about a wonderful person, who would in future years become my
faithful mentor. This fantastic role-model, who is just six years my
senior, is Ruth Heidrich, PhD. I met Ruth only four times, not only at
the North American Vegetarian Association Summerfest, but also at the
World Vegetarian Congress in Toronto, as well! However, I feel as
though Ruth is my mentor, advocate, and big sister all in one!!!
Following her example, I became a vegan, and my cholesterol dropped to
l40 within only two months! I began losing weight and my blood pressure
lowered! Ruth ‘coached’ me for the Boston Marathon (I ran for a
charity, therefore, I didn’t have to qualify speed-wise.) via e-mail
from Hawaii!! I crossed the finish line prior to six hours which made
me eligible for the finisher’s medal!!! (I was nearly 60 years old.)
Elated, I vowed that I’d run one full marathon per year for the rest of
my life. I was able to keep my vow until I was plagued with long
undetected Lyme Disease!!! (That, in itself is a long and wild story.)
That demon, Lyme disease, caused me to have heart failure or
cardiomyopathy; according to an echocardiogram, the left chambers of my
heart were putting out l5 cc instead of the healthy 55 cc!! I had edema
which was so severe that over 43 pounds of ‘bloat’ spread like dragons
flaming up my legs to my groin and to my ribs! I looked disfigured! I
couldn’t bend my knees!
I went to the Princeton non-invasive care center. There I was told
that they rarely saw in their test results, a heart which, from my
intense exercise (i.e., marathoning) put out so many branches/shoots to
compensate! They informed me that I had not marathoned in vain!
To add insult to injury, when I checked myself into the ER of a
well-known hospital requesting a Doppler to see if I had DPT (deep
pulmonary thrombosis), I learned that technicians were not available.
At that juncture, I should have had the good sense to exit, but I
didn’t. The ER staff said to me, “Just to be on the safe side, dear,
we’re going to give you a blood thinner.” Wow, I experienced pain
greater than any time in my entire life when they gave me blood thinner
in the belly! My abdomen went into spasm and I couldn’t lie flat enough
for further testing!! Before I knew it, I was checked in as an
inpatient! A nurse appeared with a clipboard and and asked me to sign
for a blood transfusion!!! “What?” I gasped. Then they informed me that
if I didn’t received a blood transfusion soon, that I would die!!!!
….that my hemoglobin had dropped to three from hemorrhaging and that it
should be l2!
Before week’s end, I had to receive a total of FOUR blood
transfusions!! Needless to say a cardiologist was called in, etc. At
week’s end, I was reluctant to go home because my ‘Buddha-looking’
belly was burning. I was told, “Don’t worry, dear, when the blood is
absorbed, you’ll be fine.” The next day I was too weak and sore to get
out of my bed,Anyway, weeks passed, and I requested physical therapy
which was granted. After having made significant progress with the
world’s most wonderful physical therapist, Farida Adoro, who
specialized in cardiology physical therapy,I asked Farida, if she
thought it unrealistic for me to consider at least walking a full
marathon in approximately nine months. Her response, “No, I don’t think
that’s unrealistic, especially considering the great progress you’ve
been making.” Needless to say, THAT WAS THE MOST BEAUTIFUL MUSIC TO MY
EARS THAT I HAD EVER HEARD!!!!! Ahhh, my spirits were immediately
uplifted and my ‘old’ high energy level returned!!!!
My cardiologist, however, had other depressing comments!! He thought
that I was out of my mind and warned me that I should NEVER do more
than one mile for the rest of my life!!!!! He even went so far as to
put his ideas in writing!!! Difficult as it was, I was DETERMINED not
to allow myself to live in fear. He told me that the only reason I felt
so good was from the medicines. I came back with, “But doctor, I had
those SAME meds when I had heart failure and couldn’t even walk up my
driveway! And now I can walk several miles without any problem.” His
scare tactics continued. I informed the doctor that I’d rather die
doing something I love than being disabled with tubes attached!
I forced myself to enter 5K races even though I raced-walked a 40
minute mile! Nevertheless, it was WONDERFUL being in the company of
upbeat folks, etc. I began placing in my age division from the third
out of six races!!! That helped my confidence level so much. At one of
the races, I WON A HEART MONITOR which I wore each week during my
On October 8th 2006, with one of my faithful adult sons
at my side, I finished all 26.2 miles and 365 yards. at the Tow Path
Marathon in Ohio!!!!
As Dr. Oz, cardiologist/cardiac surgeon at Columbia Presbyterian,
said in his National Public Radio interview on the Heart and Souls
morning show, “There’s much more to cardiology than high technology and
medicines; the individual differences, spirituality, personality, etc.
are equally important; the holistic approach is the way.
Boy, he got THAT right!!!!!
I hope this story inspires others who might feel doomed by their diseases and conditions!!!!