Sunday, February 19, 2012

A Heart for the Race - Skiing a Marathon

Some of the OSCR  participants

Seeley Lake, nestled high in the mountains of western Montana, is known for its beauty. The ski trails of this community were the setting for the 30th OSCR (Over Seeley's Creeks and Ridges) Ski Race on January 29, 2012.  Nordic (cross country) skiing is well known as a vigorous cardiovascular workout , and this skiing marathon was no exception.

Bob Gies (right) skiing the OSCR 10K, January 29, 2012
Everyone there was outfitted with their ski gear, but among the 10K participants was one 67 year old man with some very special equipment inside his chest. This man had a special heart for the race!

Athletic all his life, Bob Gies underwent major surgery in 2010, addressing three distinct problems with his heart and aorta. The seeds of those problems were present the day Bob was born. He had come into the world with an aortic valve that had only two leaflets. By the time he had surgery, his bicuspid aortic valve was calcified, his ascending aorta had ballooned into an aneurysm, and the "electrical" rhythm of his heart needed some help too!  

  In a prior blog, Bob's experience before and after surgery is given in more detail. 
A heart for the race and a smile that says it all!

Bob went through cardiac rehab following his surgery and found the monitoring reassuring as he gradually healed and recovered his stamina. Sometime in 2011, he decided to enter this race, a true cardiovascular challenge.

 As Bob approached the finish line, do you wonder what he was thinking? Many things, perhaps. Awe for the amazing things inside his chest - a man-made, tissue aortic valve faithfully opening and closing with every heart beat, the Dacron graft taking the pressure of the blood gushing out of his heart, and the "remodeled" electrical pathways - all the things that surgery had given him.
Finish Line!

Bob carried something else inside his heart as he powered through those trails on his skis - tremendous gratitude for the skilled hands of his surgeon, who gave his heart, his life, back to him again.

Yes, Bob had the heart for this race! He finished!

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