Adrian Jones – Return to Cycling
Born in Marin County, Adrian returned in 2006 with his wife and two children and you can often find him hiking or biking the many trails in the area. He is passionate about helping drive awareness and preventative action for heart disease in addition to helping adoptees navigate the complexities of finding their biological truth. You can follow him at adrianjones.me and on twitter at AdrianJones_me.
I dashed out of the house, late to meet three friends for a mountain bike ride on a sunny October morning in 2016. I hollered over my shoulder to my “screen-age” children that I’d be home soon. My wife was out of town so I planned to return home and do something fun with them that afternoon.
We rendezvoused and began our ascent up the fire trails to Lake Lagunitas in Marin County, California. The four of us had done this exact ride several times in the preceding weeks, and it started as normally as the previous ones had. Until everything changed.
As we reached the completion of the first climb of nearly eight hundred feet, the strength in my legs vanished sharply and I labored to reach the end of the ascent. As soon as I plateaued, everything started spinning around me in the most unsettling way and it was all I could do to click out of my pedals and get off my bike. I stumbled over to a helpless bush and violently vomited onto it while my friends watched in disbelief.
I stood up, gathered myself, and apologized. I suggested that we needed to keep climbing to get to the lake and complete the planned route.
To a man, they shook their heads and agreed something was off with me. We needed to ride down, they urged. I reluctantly agreed. On the way down a ferocious pain set in my chest. It was as if an elephant was sitting on my chest plate. I slid off my bike and lay across the trail, spread-eagled, beating my chest thinking I had acid reflux or some form of gas that needed to be released. The pain did not stop. I got back on my bike and gently rode a bit longer until I could no longer control my bike as I had become too weak.
From there we walked forty minutes down to the parking lot. Each breath felt like a million needles poking my lungs and eventually my fingers went numb. A friend threw me in his car and we raced to the emergency room. Moments later I learned I was having a severe heart attack and about an hour later I was the proud owner of a new stent valve in my left anterior descending artery and life as I knew it had changed forever. I am one lucky person. When I had arrived at the hospital that artery (aka “the widow maker”) was 100% blocked. The mortality rate for this condition is extremely high.
But my recovery is a bit unlike other survivors although every survivor has their own unique story. The day before this nearly catastrophic ride I had had my annual physical. I was on top of my cholesterol and saw a cardiologist annually for an unrelated issue. I was healthy and active. Why did this happen?
You see, I am adopted. Laying in ICU post-surgery, I decided then and there that I would find my birth family to see if cardiovascular disease was in my DNA. Turns out, it is. From my maternal side in a significant way. The great news, besides surviving and achieving a full recovery, is that I had a driving impetus to find and meet my biological family, my birth parents and three half-sisters. The reunion has been beautiful and now there is so much more love in all of our lives.
I chose to allow this traumatic event be a beautiful gift for me. I have expanded my family and I have what I call Survivor Superpowers, a very special set of gifts that allow me to slow down and appreciate the little things. I seek meaningful moments wherever I am and I eat much healthier now, too. And I kiss my kids morning and night and remind them how much I love them. Same goes for my wife. I won’t walk out of my house again without telling my family I love them.
I am mountain biking again. One pedal stroke at a time I am getting stronger and faster and more confident. In fact, April 28th I will be riding my mountain bike with my friends who were with me when my attack struck in CycleNation in Livermore, California. CycleNation is Nationally Sponsored By Amgen Breakaway from Heart Disease and CycleBar. To learn more about how you can take action and live healthy, click here.