Although I was unable to participate this year, Kathy and I watched and cheered as my team of Mark Pophal, Kathleen Zielinski, and Loretto Agdinaoay (my biker substitute) took 1st place in the Cleveland Triathlon! I am very proud of them and wish I could have joined them. Next year we defend our title!
My recovery after 1 week is slowly progressing. My orthopedist was very optimistic (no surgery necessary) at a good recovery. I may be back in training in 4-6 weeks.
2014 started out great with family, work, and body all working in top form. I hit the season strong running with Lily in a local 5K and taking 1st place in my age group. Lily took 2nd place in her Nationals riding competition in Massachusetts and everybody was feeling good.
Kathy’s running has only gotten stronger since her amazing Turkey Trot debut in November. Lily, Kathy, and I did a 5K Mutt Strut with Gracie and she got 4th overall in women’s division and I got 1st again in my age group!
I have kept up on getting in a lot of miles each week and added swimming to my biking and running. I was preparing for my first triathlon which I completed last weekend with a respectable 4th in my age group
Up next was lots of golf and the Cleveland Triathlon until yesterday. During a training cycle run, I had a terrible accident after a car got a little too close for comfort. An afternoon in the ER revealed my broken clavicle (collar bone) and a rib or two. Still have to meet with the Orthopedist on Thursday. Needless to stay, I return to recovery mode. It is a disappointing setback, but I will overcome this hurdle. I’ll be back.
We had a great time at Cedar Point last Friday and the kids will have to Ride On without Dad for a few months.
We will skip the running and exercise talk today. I am reflecting on all the blessings that surround me. Kathy and the kids are ever an inspiration for me to work hard and play hard. The images of 2 years ago today flood back easily, but with perspective. I laughed with my partner, Kathleen, today when she reminded me I threw up on her as Kathy reached for a washcloth in the ICU on 12/5/2011. These not-so-distant memories fuel me to rejoice in my mundane activities. The what-ifs are now only that, because I successfully conquered my demons. I take heart in the human spirit and its ability to persevere despite the obstacles placed before us. I am glad I am not a statistic today. I am looking forward to the holidays with good friends and family.
A little girl and her father were crossing a bridge. The father was kind of scared so he asked his little daughter, “Sweetheart, please hold my hand so that you don’t fall into the river.”
The little girl said, “No, Dad. You hold my hand.”
“What’s the difference?” Asked the puzzled father.”There’s a big difference,” replied the little girl.”If I hold your hand and something happens to me, chances are that I may let your hand go. But if you hold my hand, I know for sure that no matter what happens, you will never let my hand go.”
In any relationship, the essence of trust is not in its bind, but in its bond. So hold the hand of the person who loves you rather than expecting them to hold yours.
My wife Kathy has been secretly strengthening our bond for the last 3 months. As she watched me enjoy my running over the last 2 years since my surgery, she decided to stop being a spectator and join in. As I continued training after the half marathon for the Cleveland Turkey Trot, she had started her own regimen of running. Keeping it secret only from me; neighbors, family, and friends kept me in the dark. And then on Wednesday night, hours before the run, she revealed the great surprise. I am still in shock and awe at her dedication and persistence at a sport I thought she would never undertake. She nursed herself past a few injuries and painful runs and showed up in a huge way on Thanksgiving Day.
Despite 22 degree race time temperature and slippery road conditions, we both headed out together and competed with the other 10,000 crazies. Kathy finished an amazing 25th in her age group to put her in the top 10% in her very first race ever. I managed to improve last years time by several minutes and finish in the top 5%. A very rewarding day for us both. So like the little girl holding her daddy’s hand, I will reach out my hand to hold on to Kathy’s. I will be ever thankful on this holiday to remember her sacrifice to tighten our bond and create an opportunity for a lifetime of running highs.
My heart continues to pump strong and steady. I had a full evaluation from bloodwork and echocardiogram to MRI/MRA. Everything is in perfect working order and I couldn’t feel better. I thank everyone for the continued support and wish you all a happy and festive holiday season.
As I near the two-year anniversary of my surgery, I also am getting close to my first half marathon. I will run the Cleveland Rock-n-Roll Half Marathon on October 6th. I just ran a 12+ miler yesterday and felt pretty good. Summer is coming to a close and the kids are in full swing back at school. I have my year check up coming in the next few weeks with the cardiologist to green light me for all these upcoming activities. Lily is planning on running the Turkey Trot with me this year. Continued thanks to all my friends and family for their continued support. Run (and bike) on!
- I biked 100 miles from Cleveland to Sandusky 8/3/13 raising money for MS.
Kathleen Zielinski (runner), Mark Pophal (swimmer), and Mike Shaughnessy (biker) did well taking second place in the Olympic Relay division at the Cleveland Triathlon 8/4/13
If the prospect of riding 125 miles in a weekend on a bike and performing well at it had been suggested to me a year and half ago, I would have said you’re crazy. But fast forward to August 2013 and here I am enjoying a new found energy and life force that I have never known. Kathy and the kids have been a blessing of support as I have been training a lot in the last few months for these last two days. My heart handled all the pressure and exertion with flying colors. December of 2011 was my lowest physical point in life and now I may be at my highest. My successes continue to astonish me and I have to thank all the inspirations around me. My family is my biggest fan as the kids have been amazed how far I have come. Kathy provides me with much needed prodding when it seems I can’t go another foot. My co-workers Kathleen Zielinski and Mark Pophal were definitely the fire to get me going for the Cleveland Triathlon this weekend. As they trained for their running and swimming respectively, I pushed myself harder. My neighbor, Larry Mueller, was the one who started all this “biking” stuff from the beginning; so I thank him. My brothers and sisters are also keeping my spirits going in the right direction. My brother, Dan, in particular, who has done all this running and biking for a long time, continually adds the helpful hints to ease me along the path.
I hope I don’t get too sappy a year and a half later, but I am ever grateful to walk and talk this big beautiful earth today. I hope to do my first half marathon in October and keep the future bright and full of possibility.
It’s been 1 1/2 years since surgery, but it still is something I think about every day. I am constantly aware of others struggles and am more grateful than ever for the gifts around me. I just finished an 8 mile run this morning and still can’t believe that I can do this knowing what my heart went through.
A special thanks this week to my brother-in-law Anton Zuiker and his website mistersugar.com for interviewing me and reminding me of all my blessings. If my story can continue to inspire me, I hope it can do the same for others.
Off for an exciting day with the kids getting Hugh ready for his First Communion next weekend. Lily and Kathy will be with their horses and 4H all day.
Enjoy your moments!
One year ago today I was wheeling down the hallway of University Hospitals Mather OR wondering whether this would be the last time I would see my friends and family. I was an emotional wreck as they helped me climb onto the operating table. Facing my fears, I melted into the table. My next memory is the chaos of the cardiac ICU and the not so pleasant extubation. My heart and aorta had just spent seven hours being rebuilt so that I could see another day. It was the first day of the rest of my life.
My first birthday was an eventful one for mom and dad. I arrived a month early with too much zeal and excitement for the yet undiscovered world. Forty-four years later I would find a new birthday, a second chance at life. My heart turns one today.
I have not forgotten the tears and pain and struggle of the last twelve months, but I do wake each morning with the sense and strength of survival. My scar is an obvious and unavoidable reminder, but my ability to take on and conquer all that I want has been the true test of time. My passions are my family, my work, and my running. The trials of the early recovery have born a new energy. My sense of control of my future has returned. My greatest challenge, looking back, was not the physical toll my body had to endure; but the loss of control of my very essence, my life. We all like to be the captain of our own ship; navigating our life paths to our greatest destinations. But my surgery forced me to relinquish control to my doctors, my family, and all those offering a helping hand. Fear of dependence motivated me early in recovery. I did not see it until much later.
My days start early now, 5 a.m., as I head to the gym. I run or workout most every day. I have run in three races since my surgery and finished top ten percent in all of them and better than that in my age group. My latest Turkey Trot 5 miler in downtown Cleveland on Thanksgiving was shared by my Kathy, the kids and 10,000 others. I recently ran 10 plus miles and never felt better. The new found energy has pushed me to many new heights. I embrace the challenges of being a good husband, father, surgeon. I cherish all of my relationships with a new sense of purpose.
I am still a survivor. I thank all of my family and friends that helped me reach this day. I hope that my story continues to be a source of inspiration to myself and others, providing a road map for those facing a difficult obstacle in their own life. There are no guarantees in this life. Try and find your own peace in giving up the control once in a while and letting others share in your failures and successes. So wish my heart a happy birthday today! Enjoy your family, your highs, your lows and everything in between. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!
It has been nine months this week since the life-altering event that has forever changed me into a different, and hopefully better, man. I continue to contemplate my mortality and my second chance on a daily basis.
Last weekend, I ran a 5K race for a local high school that was raising money for wounded vets and their families. I finished 21st out of about 200, but I really wasn’t running for time as I was running for a sense of accomplishment after the hard work I’ve been putting into my recovery. I run almost exclusively alone and it was nice to run with a crowd. I have been logging about 20-25 miles a week. I ran a personal best 8.1 miler yesterday and really felt great. The increase in my stamina following the surgery has been nothing short of incredible. I thought I was pretty high energy before, but now I can just keep going. I started playing basketball at my church again 6 weeks ago and I find myself enjoying it more than ever.
I visited with my cardiologist last week and was given the green light for anything I want to do and to return back in one year! My family, especially Kathy, are the reason to get going every day. I exercise and/or run almost every day. It has been a wonderful summer of vacations, relaxing, golf, and work. The kids had a tremendous summer with camps, friends, and all our family stuff. School is back into full swing and Kathy finds herself at home with time to contemplate her next career!
The surgery seems like a lifetime ago, but my gratitude still swells like it was yesterday. I am overwhelmed by the continued well wishes from patients, friends, family, and others that are inspired by the story.