ICELAND on the EDGE

4 07 2018

 

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The “Bucket List“.  An itinerary of things one may want to do, or places one may want to visit before one dies. Iceland was high on my bucket list for quit some time. Years ago, 2010 to be exact, while watching the Bachelorette, they were in Iceland and I said to my boyfriend who was not paying attention to the show  “We’re going to Iceland.”  He just said ok to placate me, but I meant it and knew if we could bike there he would go.   But for the same reason  people sometimes are triggered to create a bucket list, I suddenly had a medical mishap. This out of the blue heart defect thingy sidelined me for a little while. *See Fit,Fifty & WTF.  But if theres one thing a life threatening  illness or in my case open heart surgery does is makes you realize that time is not guaranteed to no one and you need to stop putting off what you can and want to do today.  So to celebrate the two year anniversary of my new aortic valve  I knew it was time to check it off the list and away we went to the land of fire.

While Iceland is a “hot” place to visit when you tell people that’s where you are vacationing they ask you “Is it cold?” Followed by “Where is Iceland?” and “Are you going to bike in Iceland?”   Now before you assume I surround myself with people of little geographical knowledge, know that 64% of American’s have never left the country.

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“Welcome to the land of the ice and snow.” (Repeat. But this time sing it like you’re Robert Plant.) So impressed with Icelands majestic terrain “The Immigrant Song” by the great Led Zeppelin was inspired to be written.  Iceland is an island in the Atlantic Ocean and the second largest island in Europe. It is also the most sparsely populated country in Europe. A quick 5 hour flight from Newark Airport and we were there.

 

Time constraints and busy season prices, we opted to take a chance and go in late March. This  is what is known as the beginning of their summer season.  Temperatures ranged in the high 50’s to mid 60’s.  Along with this choice of gambling on the changing of the seasons we did encounter the negatives that we had hoped we would somehow avoid. Our scheduled Volcano mountain bike ride ended up getting cancelled twice due to extremely high winds and bad weather. To give you an idea how windy it was when we were there the headlines of the newspaper read “Winds in Iceland cause flying trailers and trampolines.”  The beginning of summer is known for it’s  more severe glacial winds and this can cause the closing of sections of Ring Road also known as Rt.1. and if you can’t use this thoroughfare your trip plans get messed up!  The most popular attractions  are along the “The Golden Circle” section and our first two days we could only venture by car to sight see a certain radius along Ring Road because of road closures.  Finally, on the day prior to our departure our prayers were answered by the weather goddess.  Which meant we would finally get  to “The Edge”, the ride we pre-selected from the bike tour company  Icebike Adventure  . You can check out the many rides offered on Icebike Adventures web sight and make sure to follow them on Instagram.  Our guide Magne arrived at our hotel and we headed about 20 minutes outside Reyjakvik  towards the beautiful blue hued Bláfjöll volcanic mountain range.

Rain gear and trail shoes, not bike shoes as told from IceBike Adventures, who were awesome answering my questions via email prior to our trip, because although we would be riding we would be doing some walking on jagged terrain.  Armed with our fat tire bikes hiked on our shoulders, Magne said “Follow me” and he took off like a rabbit hopping thru a green patch of moss.  Obviously this bumpy moss covered terrain was a texture Magne was well accustomed to, however from the second I started our 1/4 mile trek threw this multi level green matted lava rock the Philly girl in me surfaced. “WTF”   You have this green sponge substance anchored over lava rock. Moss likes water so it looks pretty but you’re  trying to walk, see where you’re going so you don’t lose a limb  in-between a crevasse. I also am looking around for a martian to pop out  because it it so surreal and seriously looks like the set of a space movie.

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The higher part of the Volcano still had some white stuff that had not melted so we got to ride through some sections that still had some snow. And as we encountered these little white patches Magne would traverse down like Alberto Tomba as did Kevin my boyfriend. Me, I instantly would hit the snow and instead of peddling through, fall over and find myself sliding down sideways.

Yeah, yeah, yeah. And to all of the snow riding experts out there, here’s my million and one excuses.  I never rode a fat tire bike. This particular bike was way too big for me. No the seat wouldn’t

IMG_2998adjust lower and I never rode a bike in the snow!  As we descended down the “Edge” we did so along with the run off of the earlier rains and the melting snow.  The trails are deep and muddy.  Which is why you are riding a fat tire and not a 26″ or 27.5″ tire.  While the scenery was spectacular, and the ride epic, it did at times become frustrating for me. Since I was on a bike that was way too big I did not have the steering control, and therefore every time my front tire hit something the bike would ricochet back throwing me and my vajayjay forward on to the bike bar.  Which brought again lots of F-Bombs out of my mouth and left me with a bruise the color of the blue lagoon.

By the bottom of this 3 plus hour majestical ride the sun appeared, the sweat dripped and we were now clad in T-shirts, mud and big smiles.  The colors, terrain and the textures unlike anything I have ever seen or ridden before in my life. The beauty of Iceland is simply breathtaking, and to be able to take in this magical ride is something I certainly do not take for granted. It is days like this that reinforce why I have a bucket list. Why it is so important to me to do things, see things and experience things rather than have things. Good health is not guaranteed. And certainly something one should never take for granted.  We can do our best to live our healthiest, but as I found out sometimes the cards have been dealt prior to birth and we never know what is lying in our hands or genes. What I can tell you is that I will always continue to add to my bucket list and always strive to check things off no matter what challenges should come my way.

The world is big and I want to have a good look before it gets dark. ” John Muir

The white hummer awaited us at the bottom with cold drinks thanks to Magnes staff.  The day was perfect and thankfully we were not repacking our clean bike gear for the trip home. That would have really sucked. Iceland CHECK!

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FATTY

*For the Road riders you can ride or book with a bike tour company to travel parts or even the whole “Golden Circle” also known as Ring Road. This would be for those riders who can withstand the extreme strong winds, various terrain of tarmac and gravel along with various weather related road conditions along and steep hills.

Accommodations: We had debated on whether to stay at one of the bigger Hotels chains however even in the off season the rates seemed rather high and I personally preferred a location within a close walking distance to the main area of downtown Reykjavik.  Airbnb apartments will often showed up in your search as hotel rooms on the large travel sights so make sure when you are booking that you realize that a lot of these so called apartments are actually turn key hotel like rooms that are over other buildings with no lobby. There were many of these type rooms being built all over this area. We opted for small new Hotel called  Hotel Klettur  and were very please with our choice for it’s location, free continental breakfast, that went beyond just cereal and muffins and for its comfortable bed and linens.  It was furnished basic Scandinavian style furniture or as we American would say “looks like Ikea.”  If you are looking for fancy, book elsewhere.  

IMG_7163 Chasing Rainbows and Chillin’ 

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Not So YOUNG, a Little WILD and Valversary THREE.

12 04 2018

 

Each year as April 8th approaches I look forward to going to the hospital and taking tests.  My goal is to pass tests and  by pass the surgeon. And by that I do not mean not bypass surgery, I mean do not have a reason to see the surgeon.  By heart I have the day’s routine down. Quick Cat Scan and off to Ultra Sound. Let me give a shout out to Ben at Penn Medicine for the “extra touch” of music videos.  Seriously watching Coldplay and then turning my head to see the ultrasound monitor showing my valve open and closing to the beat of Adventure of a Lifetime was  paradise. Really was cool.

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Once my tests are complete, I sit in a room in my surgeons office.  And although I know I feel great and that I exercised and trained hard this year to make my heart my strongest muscle, I sit and stare at the door in hopes Dr. Bavaria does not walk in.  Seeing him in his blue blazer over his scrubs would mean something isn’t pumping right, or he’s about to tell me the words I fear to hear one day that  it’s getting close to valve replacement time.  Knowing that this day will come and my aortic valve will need to replaced again is what drives me to take care of myself.  I am determined to walk in and walk out upright.  (Tissue /bioprosthetic valves have an average lifespan of  10 to 20 years) 

But lucky for me, GOD the name I like to call my surgeon, did not enter the room. I passed my tests, hit the elevator button, hit Schuylkill Expressway  and of course hit the gym for a long sweaty heart-pumping workout.  Another year down and time to train again for the life I so appreciate.  Diet and Exercise… if a doctor could write it on a prescription pad it would be the most prescribed medicine. Because people love to medicate then prevent. Gym floor or hospital floor?  Why would anybody choose the later.  While I have learned that my genes and cells  have come preprogramed for me at birth and that although I might do my best to live a healthy life style, I can’t out run, out lift or out program what unfortunate I was dealt with. What I can do is to be  physically and mentally strong to deal with anything that should be thrown my way.   A healthy heart BEATS a sick one.   So I workout like my life depends on it, cause it does.

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THREE YEARS  AGO , 5 DAYS POST OPP PEDDLING FOR MY OWN HEART.

THIS YEAR I PEDDLED FOR LITTLE HEARTS AT THE PHILLY SPIN-IN

I couldn’t of thought of a better way to celebrate my 3 year Valversary than to be one of the instructors at the Philly Spin-In for Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.   Words cannot begin to tell you how appreciative I was to be a part of this event to raise money, awareness and a cure for congenital heart defects. To hear the stories, see the signs, see all the teams spinning and feel the love for all the heart warriors is a day I’ll remember and one that makes me feel blessed. The fund will run till the end of April so please donate cause little hearts need to grow up to be big hearts. You can donate at: Philly Spin In

It’s been another heart full year.

Hope

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Hope’s Heart is Spinning at The PHILLY SPIN-IN

12 01 2018
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This is my cousin Scott. We are both members of the zipper club. A club neither of us chose to join but came with the Congenital Heart Defect membership we both received at birth. That’s the reality for many parents. One of every 120 children is born with congenital heart disease.Others are diagnosed with a heart condition during childhood, and some acquire heart disease as they grow. All told, there are millions of children living with some type of pediatric heart disease. That is why my heart is spinning and why I need your heart to spin too. 
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On Sunday March 11, 2018 I am so excited and proud to be one of the Spin instructors at this years Philly Spin-In for the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia — a fun, high-energy, indoor cycling party to help children with heart disease. It truly is a big workout to help little hearts.  Like my cousin Scott who was born with a congenital heart defect known as TGA-Transposition of the great arteries Scott spent his first 17 days of his life at CHOP. Turning 14 years old next month Scott is a normal healthy active boy with no restrictions.  His parents are thankful for the amazing doctors, nurses and the whole team of professionals at the Cardiac Center at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.
I am Spinning for a cause that couldn’t get any closer to my very own heart.
I was born with a CHD, a Bicuspid Aortic Valve and found out at age 50 when an aneurysm developed. But no parent should ever have to hear the words “Your child has congenital heart disease.”  That is why the Philly Spin- In is raising support for the Cardiac Center to make tomorrow’s breakthroughs possible at Children’s Hospital.
Please join me, other cycle instructors and hundreds of people for this amazing event to benefit Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.
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RIDE/DONATE or DONATE 
Be on my team Hopeheartstrong  by making a donation and signing up to ride at this link:
As a team we need to raise $1000. The more we raise the more bikes we will have at the event. 
Or please DONATE.  You can make a donation to the event
Details on the Philly Spin-In at: PHILLY SPIN – IN
Philly Spin-In
Corporate Sponsorship info is also available on-line and by contacting
Amanda Calabrese
Associate Director, Peer to Peer Fundraising
3401 Civic Center Blvd
Philadelphia, PA 19104
267-426-6477 ● f 267-426-6530
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While I am passionate about Health and Fitness and am a preacher of heart health even more so now after my open heart surgery, anyone who knows me well knows I am a Spinning lover! ( I am sure people who take my classes have other adjectives to describe me)  However, having been an instructor for almost 20 years I credit spinning and so did my doctors to the reason I made it to age 50 with a CHD.  Spinning gave me a strong healthy heart, a genetic defect gave me a bad valve.  On Sunday March 11th at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia I plan on spinning my heart out because I physically can! Because I am grateful for those that provided me the medical advances, technology and skills that keep my heart pumping. I hope that events like the Philly Spin – In forge new discoveries in cardiac care, bolster training programs, advocate for children in underserved communities, and quickly respond to new opportunities that may — one day — cure all children with pediatric heart disease. Please donate.
Thank you from my heart ❤  Hope
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Oh Spinning Hurts Your Butt? No But’s about it, SPINNING Keeps My Heart STRONG!

9 05 2015
One month Post - op Open Heart Surgery. Smile Marley Momma is feeling good!

One month Post – op Open Heart Surgery. Smile Marley Momma is feeling good!

Teaching Spin for over 15 years I have heard a lot of reasons why people don’t Spin.  The most common reason is it hurts their butt, balls or vagina. I have watched the fittest people walk into Spin class thinking this is a no brainer, get their asses kicked and  walk out ready to puke and of course never come back and say “it hurt my butt.”  But Spinning doesn’t favor the fittest, thinnest or fastest. It’s works best like all exercise activities when you stay with it and don’t give up.  My best Spinners come in all shapes and sizes but guess what THEY COME!  Over 18 years ago I took my first Spin class in an actual closet with 7 Spin bikes. I had 10 pounds still to lose of my 60 pounds of weight I put on pregnant with my second kid.  I was  fit so I thought this is a stationary bike looks silly.  After class I walked out sweaty but trying to look cool got in my car and started to dry heave. I would have thrown up but back then I was stupid and didn’t eat breakfast.  I then dialed a friend and said “I just did the best class. It kicked my butt. I signed us up for tomorrow.”  The baby fat flew off in no time. Spinning burns an insane amount of calories.  I eventually became an instructor and a pretty good one at that. lol   I will never regret those days in the closet at Superfit Gym. I had two babies at home and I jumped out of bed to get to class by 6am to get my ass kicked by Joe or Steve. I made new friends who have turned into old friends.  Something as little as an exercise class became a large part of my life. I went happy or sad. It never let me down through good and bad times in my life. It taught me strength, dedication, determination and that it’s OK to fall off the bike but you have to get back on. Thank you SPINNING.COM and Johnny G. for all the years you  took my breath away, cleared my head and made my heart STRONG!  Thank you SPINNING.COM and Christine for sharing my story. (See below)

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As a fitness instructor or enthusiast, you’re an active person who “looks” healthy and in shape. But what happens when your body starts to slow down? Do you dismiss it as over training or burnout? For Hope Nagy, a Spinning® Instructor for nearly 15 years, she started feeling a shortness of breath, even during simple tasks. So she followed her instincts, which ended up saving her life.

It’s Just Stress

As a busy mother of two daughters, Hope lives an active lifestyle, so when her energy and breathing levels began to drop, she stopped teaching an early morning classes thinking that she was overtraining. While trying to cut back on her physical activity, she still knew that what she was feeling wasn’t normal when her energy levels didn’t pick up and her breathing became worse. When the doctors said she was “fine,” she didn’t feel relieved when they dismissed her health problems as just stress or menopause. But Hope couldn’t ignore her instincts. When she wasn’t dismissed for stress any longer, but rather because she “should speak to someone” inferring that she needed counseling, she knew that the lingering abnormal and sluggish feelings are more than stress pains and far from insanity. After switching doctors, Hope found out that she was born with a hereditary heart condition and had been living with a “defective aortic heart valve, putting other organs at risk and caused the heart to be extremely enlarged.” Had she been given a simple echo cardiogram, she would have discovered that this condition (along with a family history of heart problems) should not have been overlooked by her doctors, especially since all she needed from them was a referral to a cardiologist.

Pulling Back Is Not an Option

Me and my Bike are rained out
For most fitness instructors and enthusiasts, taking time away from exercising was not an easy task. “It would have been easier when I started to feel fatigued to skip workouts and lay around, [but] that’s not my personality,” Hope says. Instead of pulling back completely, she “reinforced her beliefs” in fitness and put her coaching and training skills to good use. Hope continued her training until the day before surgery. “I needed my heart to be its strongest, and to me, I was training for the biggest race in my life; open heart surgery.” With the advantage of leading a healthy lifestyle for many years, Hope walked into the hospital and, instead of taking the recommended 14 days -Hope was released from the hospital after only 5.

Battle Scars

When Hope arrived home and continued her recovery, she had to start adjusting to post-surgery life, which meant changing her wardrobe to hide the scars. The more revealing, sexier tops with plunging necklines and spaghetti straps were harder to wear because, as Hope says, “the scar isn’t so sexy.” But hiding the scars isn’t optional for Hope, people ask to see them anyway, so she is confident enough to show that battle scars do heal and that we can come back from any obstacle.

New Spinning® Classes

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Getting back to teaching her Spinning classes was one of Hope’s motivating factors for making a full recovery. “Nothing made me feel better than having my Spinning class text me for two weeks to say ‘OMG you need to get back here. We miss you yelling at us’,” Hope says. Although teaching Spinning classes gave Hope a rewarding and powerful workout for herself, she started to teach more off the bike after her surgery. She is also even more committed to the heart health of her riders, encouraging them to wear heart rate monitors and reminding them that “the heart muscle is more important than their exterior muscles.” Teaching off the bike has even helped her riders with their heart health as it will “increase at least 10 beats when walking towards them,” says Hope.

What’s Next for Hope Nagy?

Children, no matter their age, want their moms to live a long time. With Hope’s new tissue valve and aortic root, her life expectancy has significantly increased. And although she has to replace her valve every ten years, she has more incentive to “check off a few things on the bucket list.”

Subscribe to Hope’s blog and follow her journey

“Each year, more women die from heart disease than from breast cancer,” Hope says, so Hope advises women to put echo cardiograms on the wellness checklist in addition to a mammogram.

When your stress is dismissed as over training, menopause, or as simply psychological, remember to follow your instincts and be reluctant to dismiss problems so easily.

Did Spinning help you improve your recovery from a major life changing event or illness? We want to hear from you! Contact us at news@spinning.com, your story could be on our Community page!

For more success stories and workout tips, sign up for SPINNING.COM newsletter!

You can ride with Hope at Crunch Gym and other fitness centers in and around the Philadelphia area. To take a class with her or to inquire about a corporate ride for your company email hope@motivatehopestrength.com

 

 

Message her at hope@motivatehopestrength.com

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Children, no matter their age, want their moms to live a long time. With Hope’s new tissue valve and aortic root, her life expectancy has significantly increased. And although she has to replace her valve every ten years, she has more incentive to “check off a few things on the bucket list.”

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Fit, Fifty & Feeling WTF ( Wonderful, Thankful & Freakin’ Relieved)

17 04 2015

FullSizeRender  Post Op Day 5 

Alive, thankful and on the road to recovery. Surgery took about 6 hours last Wednesday April 8th, 2015.  Exactly one week ago I laid in the ICU, opened my eyes, thought “thank god I’m alive” and then felt a two by four in my throat. The ventilator.  I’ve seen it on TV medical shows, heard other peoples stories of it, was told to be prepared for it and yet I still lost it.  Yes, if my arms weren’t strapped down I would have pulled it out of my mouth. “I can’t breathe” and the words are not coming out. The nurse standing on the other side of the large glass wall can’t hear me. “I can’t breathe”, banging my restricted arms and hands against the sides of the bed in a quick knocking like manner trying to get attention. “I can’t breathe, get this out of my throat.” All I hear is “Honey calm down, relax, it will be out in a few HOURS.”  And like I have also seen in scary movies, I am now playing the part of the person being lowered into the ground , dirt being shoveled on top of my grave…… I’m being buried alive.  But at this moment in my life it felt real and not like a movie. THIS is what I will remember most from my surgery, not the chest pain, headaches and nausea, but the ventilator freaking me out. Not that I didn’t expect to be awake, but I am sure many share with me this fear when having any kind of surgery where anesthesia is used.  Especially one where they tell you they are going to unplug your heart. Which is a great reason to get your ducks in a row, isn’t it?  My ducks were in a row, but unlike prior surgeries in my adult life this time I didn’t leave “the envelope” with letters addressed to my kids. I just couldn’t write them. Just the thought made me cry.  Instead, right before getting wheeled away to surgery I told my tatooed boyfriend “make sure they finish college and No Tattoos!”

I ended up not having a bicuspid valve but a badly deformed tricuspid valve. Option one: repair was out!  Option two: tissue valve was in. “Oink Oink”, I have a new pig valve.  The decision on which tissue valve the surgeon used, cow or pig, was based on what fit me best. Dr. Bavaria explained to my family that he prefered pig valves for athletes. I still think they are lying to me when they said he called me an athlete, lol.  Did he say gym rat, weekend warrior, daughter of parents who worked full time as a child and was told she can not play sports or she would have to find her own rides? Oh and no one tell my new friends on the Facebook group page  Bicuspid Aortic Valve Disease (BAVD) that I am now a poser.   The valve was a tri-leaflet. The leak in my valve was caused by a prolapsed leaflet and tears in the valve leaflets themselves, which are called fenestrations.   That was the result of the heart being enlarged and the blood trying to get out. Dr. Bavaria explained to my family that it was spraying like a hose in different directions.

I was was moved out of I.C.U. less than 24 hours after surgery to a room on Silver 10, one of the many cardiac floors at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania.   I was told that I would wake up with things like that horrible ventilator, wires connected to the inside of my heart, drainage lines as long as knitting needles under my incision,  I.V. lines in both arms, and a line in my neck.  So like a puppy waiting for a treat, when a white coat appeared every day in my room  I knew something was coming out.  And one by one and day by day they did.  Ready to roll, I took to the hallways to walk and that is when I was immediatelt humbled. Heading towards me, moving faster than I was,  dressed in the same team uniform, white and blue gown, front pocket to hold a heart rate monitor, with wires dangling from everywhere,  I am passed by a 90 year old man. Really? WTF?  I give the typical head nod I use when a fellow mountain biker passes me and that’s when I notice….he’s cheating, he has a walker, that’s not legal!  Get his bib number!!!  Being the competitve person that I am, and hearing that he is on day 14 post op and I day 1 post op , I took a deep breath….and relaxed a little. I left the hospital on Monday, 5 days after my surgery with my new medal: a 10 inch scar down my chest with a bump at the top that looks like a nose of one of the presidents on Mount Rushmore. This I am being assured, will go down over time.   The absolute best feeling was coming home to my own house, taking a long hot shower, and crawling into my own bed. No more sounds of beeps and bells, and no one waking me up to check my vitals the second I doze off.  Other than dealing with some insane pressure headaches I am good. My daily walks around my neighborhood are getting a little longer each day. Breathing better each day. And getting my ball up higher and holding it longer each day on my spirometer. That same spirometer that I would wave in my dads face when I visited him after his heart surgeries. “Did you suck today Dad?” is now  “Hope did you suck today” Crazy how things change when we least expect it.  Crazy how hard that spiromoter is. FullSizeRender copy                                                                Being initiated into the Zipper club by my dad. 

Each morning we wake up and we have a choice to pick our attitude for the day.  It’s a daily decision we make. Am I going to be miserable or am I going to be motivated?  This surgery leaves me not in pain but with the joy of knowing how lucky I am to have the life that I do.  The gift of fitness is what allowed me to get to 51 without dying, and it is now giving me a much easier recovery.   And if anyone thought I didn’t shut up before about being heathy, then look out.  I am on fire.  Just the fact that the nurses told me the average person stays 14 days in the hospital for my surgery freaked me out. You make life altering choices each day and yet people take better care of their yards than their bodies. Yes I saw the eyes as I walked the halls of the hosital.  Looks of sympathy from visitors and from other patients. But what they didn’t know is one, don’t feel sorry for me, and two, I’m  looking at you thinking that you probably need my business card!  I’m in pain from not working out. I am dying that I can’t go lift and just sweat my ass off. The luxury of being able to workout I treasure daily as do so many other people. Just ask someone whose lost that opportunity.  It’s my life. It’s your life. It’s your choice.

I am up for air, breathing and look out, this gal is on fire……..but let me sit down for a second, I just got a little dizzy.

*The pre-op blog posted the day before my surgery FIT,FIFTY & WTF can be found at hopenagy.wordpress.com and scroll to prior post or at: https://hopenagy.wordpress.com/2015/04/08/fit-fifty-w-t-f/

 

Shout out to the N.A.’s, N.P’s, and the lovely gals on Silverstein 10 at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania who took care of me, listened to me complain “my head hurts” and my nurse Jenny from Utah who let me interagate her about her life and explain that people from Philly are not ALL angry we just look that way and by gosh gave me the biggest compliment of my life when she said “the other nurses think you’re in your thirties”.  “STFU Really?” Really!!!

IMG_8176Post op Day 6 – writting my lattest blog, having my Starbucks and staring at the piles of medical bills only these are pre surgery. 

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Fit, Fifty & W.T.F.

8 04 2015

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There’s that saying that goes when one door closes another one opens. Usually that door opens to bigger and brighter things. After 18 years of an ugly marriage followed by 6 years of an ugly divorce, complete with astronomical divorce lawyer bills I am finally able to come up for air. I am in my early fifties, fit and finally free of some very heavy baggage. But why am I still out of breath?

To me there is nothing more important in life than family, and certainly nothing more valuable than good health. As a personal trainer, fitness instructor, and workout devotee, I preach about health and fitness on a daily basis. I am passionate about it and, because I am that annoying fitness friend who works out all the time, posts fitness quotes on Facebook, likes to tell you what to and what not to eat and as you can see, also blogs about it. I don’t have a problem telling people they’re overweight, their diet sucks and that they are a heart attack waiting to happen. I take care of myself so you should too. Listen to me……I’m Ms. Know It All. My motto is: “take care of your heart and your heart will take care of you.” And my personal mission is to not end up with a bad heart like my dad and his dad.

Recently I said to a friend that I would love to see how healthy my heart is for a 51 year- old woman. I bet it’s like that of a 30 year old. I do a ton of cardio and eat well, I don’t drink alcohol or smoke, I take fish oil supplements and I eat only dark chocolate. In fact, I think I am looking pretty pretty good for 51. I think 50 is the new 40. Did I mention that I have been feeling a little fatigued for the last few years. I’ve been told it’s from stress, my divorce and most recently menopause. I just had another physical. I know my body something isn’t right. I am told I should schedule a routine colonoscopy because I’m 51. Huh? I don’t think the problem is up my ass. Why isn’t anyone listening to me? I know my body and know something isn’t right. I think I need a new doctor. Yippee I found a new doctor and bonus she’s close to my house. Double bonus she had a cancellation. I have an appointment with my new doctor. Ah, I think my new doctor needs her hearing checked………
What? A heart murmur.  I now have a new doctor and a cardiologist, both whom do not have hearing problems. Although the lips are moving and I am being told that I was born with a genetic heart valve defect, I hear nothing but the words “Open Heart Surgery.” I am pretty pretty sure they both must have made a mistake because I have worked way too hard to avoid any problems with my heart, and look at me damn-it I look pretty pretty good for 51. Plus I just opened a new door in my life, I just came up for air. Let me catch my breath please.

The fall of 1980 I saw my father at the age of 43 lay in a hospital bed post-op from a triple bypass surgery after suffering his first of many future heart attacks, followed by subsequent heart surgeries and heart procedures. Wearing his scar like a badge of honor, he would parade shirtless around our house in Northeast Philly to the sheer horror of my teenage friends and I. To this day a phone call in the middle of the night always means hearing my mom say “Daddy’s in the hospital.” Now at the age of 82 my father Morty has had way too many heart procedures to list. But it’s this medical technology that keeps him alive and on the golf course in sunny Florida. That and someone, upstairs must like him a lot and knew that I would need him around so we can compare our badges of honor, our open heart surgery scars.

I’ll admit I have never even heard of a Bicuspid Valve, BAVD or let alone a Thoracic Aneurysm but when I’m asked if I know who John Ritter was I say yes and that I never thought he was funny. I couldn’t begin to comprehend what the cardiologist was saying. I have two daughters who need me. I can’t have open heart surgery…that would be insane. I’m too young. That’s for old people, people who are out of shape, people who eat bad, drink, and smoke. It’s not for me—the high and mighty personal trainer, amazing Spin instructor and fitness nut. Come on—I have to do the Broad Street Run. I need to teach my Spin class. I have people to train and preaching to do about the importance of doing cardiovascular exercise to strengthen the heart. And I have a list of personal “to do’s” like hiking the Grand Canyon, doing the Leadville 100 mountain bike race, and running the Disney Princess half marathon with my daughter, in of course Micky Mouse ears. In other words I have LIFE to do and don’t have time for this crap. More importantly I need to work, make money. I am a single mom. I don’t have workman’s comp or a job with benefits. How will this happen? And why did this happen? And another thought…OMG I’m going to have a gross scar down my chest like my father! Breath Hope. Just breath.

As I sat waiting for Penn Medicine’s top Aorta Specialist Dr. Joseph Bavaria to see me I was convinced that he would say we’ll monitor you and check you again in 12 months. But when he entered the room with this god like presence I knew immediately that “see you in a year” wasn’t coming out of his mouth. Instead he said “ John Ritter died from what you have.” “Yes I’ve heard” I said. And as I sat there wearing a shirt with a giant pink heart that I wore on purpose, listening to Dr. Bavaria and his Assistant Kristen tell me that my heart was way too big for my body size and all about artificial valves, cow valves, pig valves, two days in intensive care, and a week in the hospital I suddenly felt more like a confused child and not the strong confident mom of steel I am. Sadly, as I put my coat on over the cute pink heart shirt the heart surgeon never even noticed nor chuckled at, I gather my things and drove back into the suburbs in silence. Rush hour traffic on the Schuykill Expressway for once in my life didn’t seem to bother me. I thought about my kids and that I now had to call my dad and tell him the secret I have kept from him for two months. “Daddy, I have a heart condition and I am having open heart surgery in April.” And in true form my father said “BULLSHIT, that doctor doesn’t know what he’s talking about. You were not born with a valve problem. It’s from too much god damn exercising”

Bicuspid aortic valve disease, or BAVD, is a congenital heart defect. Most people are born with a normal functioning tricuspid aortic valve. Some, like myself, are born with a bicuspid valve. A bicuspid aortic valve can be a serious heart valve disorder in which the valve only has two leaflets, or flaps, that control blood flow through the heart causing blood to regurgitate back into the heart rather than exit. It is a genetic mutation that occurs during pregnancy that causes the leaflets to fuse together. All of that causes the aorta to stretch and bulge and possibly cause an aneurysm. Oh yeah, I have one of those too that has to be repaired during my surgery. Some people are diagnosed at birth and therefore monitored as they age. Some like myself find out later in life that they were born with this valve disorder. To say I wasn’t prepared for the news that I had a life threatening heart condition would be an understatement. So I am beyond grateful and very fortunate that my new doctor, Dr. Hannah Chung heard the murmur and even more grateful that I didn’t cancel my appointment with Dr. Andrea Becker the cardiologist. Believe me I thought about cancelling.

On April 8th I will be sawed open through my sternum and have my bicuspid valve and aneurysm repaired or replaced. My surgeon, Dr. Joseph Bavaria will attempt to repair my valve rather. However if it cannot be repaired a replacement valve will be inserted.  At the old age of 51 I have no clogged arteries and one big strong heart so I am really hoping for a repair that hopefully would last for the rest of my life.  Tissue valves (cow or pig) only last roughly ten years when a person is active and therefore I could be facing open heart surgery again in ten years. I am praying for repair. I am not a candidate for a mechanical valve for other reasons. So, besides constantly thinking about my upcoming surgery and touching my left side of my chest all the time like Fred Sanford, I am cleaning my house like a nut, organizing my things and stocking up on diet ginger ale and soup. Plunging neckline shirts I once wore out whoring with my single girlfriends after my divorce have been dropped off at the good will box because something tells me that a 6” scar down my chest will not be so sexy. While I await my surgery I am restricted from doing anything that causes me to make a grunting sound like lifting heavy weights especially above my head. I am still training my clients, teaching spin and working out. I am training for the biggest race of my life – MY LIFE. I plan on walking into the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania on the morning of April 8th being one Fit Fifty-One year old Female and walking out a week later ready for my road to recovery and the opportunity to begin each day with a grateful heart.

Occasionally we hear a sad story about a kid playing football and dropping dead on the field, a basketball player collapsing on the court, a child who has a heart attack at recess. We find out they had an unknown heart condition and that had it been detected their lives could have been spared. Today there are national campaigns designed to stress the importance of early detection of heart conditions in youth which can lead to Sudden Cardiac Death.

Simon’s Fund is just one of the many organizations dedicated to raising awareness about the conditions that lead to sudden cardiac arrest in young athletes and children. Sudden cardiac arrest is the #1 killer of student athletes and cardiac arrest is the #1 killer of adults in the U.S.  As such, we should be checking the hearts of our children. Simon’s Funds latest success is the passage of The Sudden Cardiac Arrest Prevention Act (HB1610) in Harrisburg, PA. Hundreds of childrens lives have been saved thanks to the screenings that have taken place in schools all around the country. Go to Simonsfund.org for more information.

I am fortunate that as active as I am I did not drop dead from my unknown heart condition. My bicuspid valve wouldn’t have been detected therefore not allowing my children to be tested for this genetic disorder. While most adults discover their unknown BAVD in their thirties when they begin to get out of breath more easily, my body learned to compensate for my hearts inadequacy. I always thought my racing heart during the first mile of a run was due to the stress of hating to run. I will be curious to see how I feel when I recover. Will I breathe better? Will my heart rate be the same when I workout? Will I not sweat as much? I know I have a tough road ahead of me but I am going into this mentally tough. Because guess what? I know my body and I am sure I will do pretty pretty well. T minus zero it’s race time.  Deep breath Hope.

 

Please follow along my journey as I recover the days, weeks and months to come.

Check out my post op blog Fit, Fifty & WTF – Feeling Wonderful, Thankful & freakin’Relieved

at: https://hopenagy.wordpress.com/2015/04/17/fit-fifty-feeling-wtf-wonderful-thankful-freakin-relieved/

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Hope Nagy Certified Personal Trainer

Pre-op testing day Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania.  Feeling thankful in Philly.

Pre-op testing day Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania. Feeling thankful in Philly.

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