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I (heart) to run

Oakleys and silly runners 09-12-13

Me and some of the gang after a riverside run on Sept. 12, 2013, just 5 days before my heart surgery.

Apparently my cardiologist likes me. And for some reason he thinks I’m at least passably “intelligent and articulate.”

That’s what the Baptist Health folks asked for when they were looking for people to be in their next ad campaign, “Keep on Amazing.” They were looking for “success stories” – fairly well-spoken people who had been treated by Baptist Health and lived to tell about it.

Well, you know – not only survived but thrived.

Apparently the facts that I’ve gained 10 pounds since my heart-valve surgery and that I’m not yet back to my normal race pace didn’t deter the PR people from thinking I’m a “success story.”

(We won’t tell them about the 9 mini Tootsie Rolls I just ate while writing this.)

(Wait a minute. Make that 10.)

Apparently the mere fact that I was so eager to get back into running (that I talk about it every time I visit the heart doctor) is enough for them to think I have some atypical story to tell. Or at least the doc thinks so. He’s the one who told them about me when they were lookin’ for folks.

So they’re coming to town next weekend to film me telling my story. And running. With a bunch of my crazy friends.

Running buddies, I need you to help me tell the story (because you’re a crucial part of it), but first let me back up and give a bit of the history of this heart thing. I’ve told it in a little bit of detail on the White River Roadrunners’ Facebook page and on the Roadrunners website, but haven’t told it here. So grab a cup of coffee – I’m going into detail. (If you’re a running buddy and only want to know where you come in on the aforementioned “help,” skip to the bottom. Otherwise please indulge me because I haven’t told the whole story in one place, and some people have been wanting to hear it.) Here goes:

I was diagnosed in 2008 with “mitral valve prolapse with mitral regurgitation.” Basically, the valve didn’t close properly and puked blood back into the chamber where it wasn’t supposed to. I visited Dr. Conley in North Little Rock once a year to check it. (We lived in North Little Rock for the first couple of years, and we moved to Batesville in 2010.)

Until this year, in July, no one was too concerned as long as I didn’t do anything crazy, things like what the doc called “burst activity” – such as the time back in May when I sprinted to the finish line to try to beat that guy who came up behind me at the Rock Run 8K in Little Rock. That would be considered burst activity, a big a no-no. Plus the dude beat me by 0.42 seconds. Not worth how my heart pounded later that night. (I’d ask you not to tell my mom, but I’ve had the thing fixed since then so it’s OK.)

So in July, some criteria for deciding whether to do surgery changed, and Dr. Conley sent me to a cardiothoracic surgeon, Dr. Beyer, for his opinion. I saw Dr. Beyer on Aug. 1. He told me I’d definitely need surgery, but he wasn’t sure how soon. He asked me to keep a diary for a week. The diary included things like lethargy, lack of motivation to run, mild symptoms of depression, a relapse into “stress eating” …

Once he read the diary, his nurse called and scheduled me for surgery.

I had already been scheduled for LASIK surgery on the day they wanted to fix my heart, so we put off the mitral valve repair a week. (I was later able to move up the eye surgery so that the surgeries wouldn’t be seven days apart. Wish I could say the LASIK was as successful as the valve surgery, but that’s a post for another day. Or not.)

I had the mitral valve repaired on Sept. 17 at Baptist Health Medical Center in Little Rock. With the top-notch surgeon and some newfangled equipment, they were able to do a “minimally invasive” operation. In other words, they didn’t have to hack through my sternum to get to my heart and then bind the bones back together with twist ties like some people get.

Instead, the doc made an incision under my right breast (plus a bunch of other holes in my torso that I wouldn’t know about until I woke up – I still don’t know what one of them was for) and went across under there to the valve on the left side of my chest.

I watched an open-heart surgery on YouTube a few weeks earlier, and I’m really glad mine was “minimally invasive,” despite all the extra holes. However, the doc said this to me a couple of days after my surgery: “No one has ever proved to me that this surgery is any less painful [than open-heart].” I told him I was glad he didn’t mention that before I went under the knife! Because, friends, it was plenty painful.

But at least I won’t have twist ties in my chest for the rest of my life.

So. Over the next few weeks I had follow-up visits – one with Dr. Beyer and two with Dr. Conley.

Dr. Conley, the cardiologist I see every year, and who hears me talk about running every year (and who gave me a thumbs-up – literally, although my mom didn’t believe me – when I said I was going to run a half-marathon to raise money for the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation in 2012), and who always tells me the same two stories about his other mitral-valve patients (one who nearly died showing off in front of his kids and the other who’s practically a superhero), said at my October checkup that if I was concerned about what going “all out” in running would do to my heart, he’d do a stress test.

A few weeks later, in mid-November, they did an ultrasound and then stuck a bunch of electrodes to my chest and put me on a treadmill. At first it was too slow, but they wanted to build me up gradually. They didn’t want me to jog; I just needed to walk fast. And then a little faster. And a little faster. (By then I was jogging.) They kept upping the incline and I kept muttering, “I hate hills,” but they weren’t really listening. They were just watching their little machines. Eventually, when I was at, like, 10 miles per hour (just kidding), the doc asked me how I was doing.

“Not bored anymore,” I said. I was out of breath and he said I could stop. My heart rate was high enough for him to know what he needed to know. So the tech quickly did another ultrasound – while my heart rate was still up – and let me get dressed.

Side note: Earlier, when I was changing into my paper gown, the tech told me that Bruce wouldn’t be allowed in for the testing because they were having to use a smaller room than usual and there wasn’t room for him. I told her that he was skinny and wouldn’t take up much room, and that he gives really good feedback, makes good observations and really needed to be there. (What I didn’t say out loud was that there was no way he wasn’t going to be there for this running test. I won.)

Also? She wasn’t going to let me keep my sports bra on for the treadmill test. I said there was no way I could run without wearing that support system. “We may not get you up to a run,” she said. I told her the entire point of my visit was to see how I would do RUNNING. I would definitely be running on the treadmill, and I definitely could not do it without my industrial-strength bra, especially since my right boob was still sore from the surgery. Bouncing would only make it worse. (I won.)

When the bra conversation was repeated to Dr. Conley, I told him, “If no one else has ever balked at having to take her bra off to run on the treadmill, all your previous patients must be really flat-chested.”

“Or mild-mannered,” he smirked.

I love my heart doctor!

So after all the melodrama of the stress test, during which time the doc called me grumpy (it’s OK – I got to return the favor), he asked whether I’d be interested in helping the marketing people by telling my story.

I was so hoping he meant by writing a short testimonial or something. So I gave him my card with phone and email on it. A few days later the “brand marketing coordinator,” Dana, called me and conferenced in the ad agency person.

I said I’m fairly good at telling stories on paper, not so good with my lips. I lose my train of thought, ramble and forget words.

Nevertheless, after a 30-minute phone conversation about my life, they still wanted me.

So next weekend, I get to tell my story. On camera.

I just hope I don’t do a Cindy Brady and freeze up the minute the cameras roll.

But I’ll have Bruce at my side during the talky parts and my other buddies at my side for the running parts. We’ll do the interviews Friday afternoon and the running stuff Saturday.

That’s where you come in, faithful friends.

They want you to run with us Saturday, on camera. Many times.

There are a few tricky parts. Here’s the scoop:

They’d like to air the commercials (ours will be one of five stories) throughout the year in 2014, which means they want it not to look like dead of winter in every single shot. They’re looking for areas that aren’t covered with snow and maybe have some green trees. Also, they want all of us to show up with 2 or 3 different jackets so that we can change our appearance slightly as we change locations. Also, the extra jackets are in case too many people show up wearing the same color. They’d like variety – and the brighter the better. But no plaids or “busy” patterns. (No problem, right?) Also, no glaringly obvious logos – they don’t want to deal with unintentional product endorsements. A small logo is OK, just not a huge statement across your chest, OK?

This part is a little more difficult: The schedule is to shoot us fake-running between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. Saturday. We film the first footage at 9 a.m. on Main Street, but they want us in a couple more locations and I’m not sure what those times (or exact places) will be. So we’ll have to be somewhat flexible.

It doesn’t have to be the exact same group in each location, but if any of you has a flexible schedule next Saturday (and multiple jacket colors!) we’d love for you to be at as many of the locations as possible – but especially on Main Street by 9 a.m. They also want to film us running “across the bridge on Main Street,” and I can only assume they mean on the Golden Overpass after we turn off Main. The person telling me this was not one of the ones who came up here last week scouting locations, unbeknown to me. (Why they didn’t ask us for suggestions is beyond me. They have us filming Friday’s interview portion in some retreat place in Locust Grove.)

They’ll also film all of us fake-running on Chaney Drive where there’s a gazebo. Since they don’t want Christmas lights and probably don’t mean Riverside Park, I wondered if they meant the cemetery. Dana wasn’t sure.

I’m not sure whether there’s a third fake-running location, but they also want to film us in front of “storefronts,” and I don’t believe that involves running. Therefore I’m not sure whether it involves the running group or just the Oakleys. I’ll find out early next week and let you know.

I guess we will all get an education as to how big-time commercials are filmed. The key is to be patient and flexible. We can do that, right?

So, basically, I’d love for you all to be there, and I think I’ve covered as many of the details as I possess at the moment. Except this:

The ad campaign will debut during the 2014 Super Bowl.

Pretty cool, eh?

To let us know whether you’re available to run with us on Saturday, Dec. 14, please post a comment below, text me or email me (if you have my info). You may also post a comment on Facebook, but I would rather that be the last place you reply. Thanks to all of you who can come out and help us.

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