I began running regularly about 5 years ago. Like most runners I know, I started with a few 5k races, then a 10k here and there, a half marathon, but I knew I’d definitely never run a marathon. Until I did. But I certainly wasn’t going to run another one. Until I did. A few more times.
I prefer running alone to running with a group. There’s a great, supportive running community where I live, but I like the quiet time and the solitude. Life is so chaotic already, time to myself means everything. Along the road (pun intended?) I’ve had my fair share of injuries, like most runners. But I wasn’t prepared to almost have to give up running entirely when it was discovered that I had a heart condition. Isn’t running supposed to be good for your heart?
In late March of 2020, I caught COVID-19. The first time. After being cleared by my doctor to return to activity, I continued to have chest pain. My lungs looked ok, so my primary care physician referred me to a cardiologist. In doing typical, routine tests, a possible bicuspid aortic valve was noted on the echocardiogram. From there, I went on to have an MRI that revealed not only did I have a bicuspid aortic valve, but I also had an aneurysm in my ascending aorta. At the time, there was nothing to be done, but to watch it. The aneurysm wasn’t large enough to be of any concern (I mean I was terrified, but the doctors were not concerned), and it didn’t seem to be growing too rapidly. My valve seemed to be functioning at a good enough level. Whatever that means.
In January of 2021, I contracted COVID-19 again, despite my best efforts to avoid it. And again, I had lingering chest pains. Back to my cardiologist for another echocardiogram. At this point, the aneurysm in my aorta seemed to have grown more than she was comfortable with, and the functioning of the bicuspid aortic valve had gotten somewhat worse. We scheduled a follow-up a bit sooner than originally planned. The next echocardiogram didn’t look much better. My cardiologist ordered a CT scan to get the most accurate measure of my heart function. At the same time, she sidelined me from running until she was certain it would not be dangerous. To be clear “dangerous” means my aortic aneurysm could rupture, causing massive internal bleeding. So that’s not great.
After reviewing my CT scans and having me meet with a specialist a few hours away, she felt comfortable releasing me back to physical activity. Slowly, I was allowed to ease back into physical activity, and very slowly I began running again. (After having multiple stress tests done to ensure running was safe.)
Currently, I have a bicuspid aortic valve with moderate regurgitation and an aneurysm in my ascending aorta just under 4.5cm. I still have routine checks of my heart, but I only need to get an echocardiogram once a year, rather than once every 4-6 months. I also take medication to make sure my blood pressure doesn’t creep up.
With all of this going on, the thing that made my cardiologist the most comfortable with my return to activity was knowing I ran and worked out with my Wing safety wearable from Run Angel. When I explained to her how it works (the alarm notifies 3 guardians immediately, as well as sends off a very loud alarm, easily heard by those in the area), she felt far more comfortable with my return to running and physical activity. In fact, strength training can be even more dangerous for my heart, so my Wing isn’t just worn during my runs.
Now, each time I return to see my cardiologist, she asks if I am still wearing my Wing. I’m thankful to Run Angel for keeping me safe and confident, especially running with my heart condition.
Jamie Deitrick - Run Angel Ambassador