Sheppard, Brett, Stewart, Hersch, Kinsey & Hill, P.A.

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From Ironman Athlete to Triple Bypass Patient Craig Hersch Shares His Story

I surprised my wife with a beautiful trip to HealthPark for our 30th wedding anniversary on Sept. 3, 2019.

slowing down and losing pace, I panicked and asked my law partner to call 911.

But as everyone’s attention began to focus on me, I was flushed with embarrassment. What if I was just struggling with anxiety or indigestion? Would the ambulance bill and the embarrassing looks from clients as I was wheeled out on a gurney be worth it? I shoved my fears away, canceled the request to call 911, and talked to my wife instead. She urged me to go to the ER, but I assured her I was fine. I was tough enough to get through a little panic attack. Wednesday evenings also happen to be my triathlon club’s swim practice. My problems from earlier that day raced out of my mind as I prepared for my element. I strapped into my gear and jumped in — only to be brought to a screeching halt 800 yards into the 3,000-yard set. The chest tightness was back. It was strike number three for the day, and my coach urged me to get to the hospital immediately. Instead, I went home, where my wife nearly pushed me out the door to the hospital. But first, I had to change out of my wet clothes and grab a handful of chicken on my way out the door. (Thankfully, we only live five minutes from the nearest hospital.) Once we arrived, I was immediately ushered back for testing. We learned that I hadn’t sustained a heart attack, and while that was a huge saving grace, it meant my priority status at the ER dropped low. We played the waiting game all night until I saw the cardiologist at 10 a.m. Thursday. After nearly a full day in the hospital and a litany of testing, my cardiologist, Dr. Jeff Rosen, said, “Craig, we have to talk.”What he told me next spun my entire world around. He explained that I had three arteries that were 75%, 80%, and 90% blocked. The one that was 75% blocked could kill me immediately if it were to fully clog.

Actually, I even surprised myself.

Just weeks before our anniversary, I was ignoring all the signs that something was wrong. I was a fit, 55-year-old athlete who had completed three Ironman competitions (a 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike ride, and a 26.2-mile run — yes, all in one day!), nine half-Ironman challenges, 40 triathlons of varying distances, and two bike rides in Puerto Rico and Florida for a combined 660 miles, all within the past 10 years. To top it off, my wife is a dietician, and we usually eat healthy meals. But as I slowed down in the past few months, I ignored the instances of searing back and arm pain and blew off the consistent and increasingly frequent tightening in my chest; I chalked it all up to aging.

“It sucks to get old,” I thought.

Instead, I should have thought, “What is my body trying telling me?”

It all came to a head on Wednesday, Aug. 28, 2019. That morning, I felt chest tightness again while circuit training. I took a break, and after the pain subsided, I finished the session, mentioning the pain to no one. At work later that day, my chest tightened again, I struggled to catch my breath, and a sharp pain radiated in my left jaw. For the first time since

I needed to have open heart triple bypass surgery, and I needed it as soon as possible. The surgery was scheduled for our anniversary the following

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February 2020

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