How I Got Moving
James Young, II
James ignored classic heart failure symptoms, but once faced with a frightening prognosis, he made major changes to turn his health around. Not everyone will experience the level of transformation he has, but we know even small steps can make a big difference in how healthy looks on you.
During the summer of 2011, while many were enjoying days of basking in the sun, family park gatherings, being whisked away on a commercial flight to uncharted territory, I was consumed with a mix of symptoms such as major fluid retention, breathing issues, a 20% functioning heart that had enlarged and kidney disease - that I later learned was due to Congestive Heart Failure.
After being treated during two different extended stays at the hospital, my cardiologist had given me only a small window, 30 days, to show any signs of improvement before movement began to implant a defibrillator in me.
Having overheard my cardiologist utter the words “Mr. Young...defibrillator implementation....30 days”, a jolting sense of urgency seared throughout my body and I knew at that point, I was in serious trouble.
After losing the weight, which was mostly fluid retention, my weight dropped so drastically and quickly that when I had another blood test done as well as EKG, every aspect of my illness made tremendous improvements.
Physically, I was still weakened from the Congestive Heart Failure. I asked my doctor during a follow up visit if I could begin some form exercise regimen.
She strongly advised to cease engaging in any form of strenuous physical activity however suggested that I simply begin walking. And so I did.
I first began by attempting to walk down my residential street which was very difficult to do. With each step, I felt like giving up - I would stand still at times contemplating if this was going to be my life but then my next thought was to keep going. Several moments of wobbling and almost falling, I somehow continued to catch my balance until I made it back home. Mind you, I was only able to walk half of the block at that time.
Giving up was never on my agenda, so I decided to visit a local high school track that's open to the public and this is where my life changed.
This may some a bit strange however, prior to actually walking onto the tracks surface, I would drive up to the track, sit in my car and watch as people walked, jogged, and ran, around the track. After doing that for about a week or so, I graduated from sitting in my car to standing by the fence area observing the activity on the track. Eventually, I made my way to the inner part of the track and would sit in the stands watching everyone flawlessly and gracefully conquer lap after lap on the track's asphalt.
Then one day, after another week or so of sitting in the stands, I stood up, with heavy intention in my spirit, I stepped down from the stands and planted my feet on the track. That alone was accomplishment enough to leave for the day but, I thought, since I made it this far, I might as well give it a try. I was only able to about a quarter of a mile on the track at that time.
My legs and feet were still very sore from all the accumulation of fluid retention that I had been carrying around for months; I discontinued on that day but returned the very next day to try again.
That track became my second home. What I found out and realized, is that the track represents unlimited possibilities. One can do as little distance as you want or do a lot more if you choose. It's all up to you.
By befriending many of the regulars and sharing my story with them, they became my cheerleaders on the track – every time being interested in knowing how far I went on a particular day. Having that support system truly made a difference in helping to motivate me to continue on.
Then, after several months of being consistent and getting better each time with distance and my minutes per mile, I found myself one day doing as much as 5 miles in one set. And then a year later, I was able to do 10 miles in one set. I would never begin to imagine that while suffering Congestive Heart Failure, that one day, I would accomplish 10 miles on the track.
The way I look at the track, is not just this mindless activity of going around and around multiple times – it was not only my way of physically improving my cardiovascular health but it was also, spiritually, my way of moving forward and leaving behind such a dreaded past filled with bad diet, smoking cigarettes, alcohol consumption and an emotional depressive state.
That breakthrough on the track connected me back to LIFE where I literally and physically, RAN from Congestive Heart Failure.
TELL US: What physical accomplishment have you completed that you never would have imagined after diagnosis?