“I paused on a few occasions after taking in the view or hitting a big run and said to myself: ‘‘a year ago I was struggling to walk and here I am living as I wished.”
I decided to purchase a blender to change my diet and experiment with different foods. I was interested in having more energy and thought my diet would be a good place to start.
Opening the manual of the blender, on the first page in big bold red letters it said ‘ATTENTION Speak with your doctor first before using this blender if you have had heart surgery’.
My heart sank and I called the local practice, thinking this would now be something I would always have to do; check with the doctor first. ‘‘How can I help?’’ the local doctor enquired and I explained the blender warning instructions and the procedure to him.
‘‘That’s fine. As you had the tissue valve it doesn’t apply. Generally people make smoothies with lots of green vegetables, cabbage etc. so this means it can’t be used due to the blood thinners as the balance would be thrown off, amongst other things,’’ he said.
“OK great! Thank you for your time,” and I proceeded to make my first homemade smoothie with great excitement and encouragement.
It was then with some hesitation that I booked a snowboarding trip with a close friend and his girlfriend. My mate had found a resort known for incredible boarding off the tourist trail and so we decided to go.
I felt nervous and excited before the trip. I was pleased to be fulfilling a choice I made early on with the tissue valve, to be able to go snowboarding again. Although now I wondered whether I would struggle to breathe; the air is thinner and my body might react poorly, I could have no energy and didn’t know how my body would cope with the extreme environment.
I’d already put myself through a lot and a winter sports holiday is not relaxing, it’s like going to the gym all day carrying the extra gear around the mountains. You are in awkward boots that make walking hard, layered up like the Michelin Man; it can be quite a struggle and it’s very cold.
All this makes it hard work but it’s worthwhile because it’s so much fun! Anyone who has caught a fresh powder run and been up on the mountain early to see the sunrise will understand. The mountains have their own stillness and beauty that can only be experienced, when you are in close contact with them it’s incredible, gliding down the mountain feels like flying.
We arrived, settled in and got our gear on to head out for the first day of boarding. I took it easy to allow my muscles to get used to the strange movement and unfamiliar posture, although it was like riding a bike and it came straight back to me. We did a few runs and I was in heaven, working my legs and hips hard to free them up and feeling the snow gliding beneath me.
We got out of one of the cable cars to walk over to a viewing platform and I started to feel out of breath. ‘‘Oh no, this isn’t good,’’ I thought. I knew that a certain amount of this was due to the altitude but I was nervous. I sat down on a bench and turned to my friend asking how he felt. ‘‘Knackered, but incredibly good,’’ he replied breathing heavily. It was then I knew he felt the same and the heavy breathing was normal for being up so high.
I had the best holiday I have ever had, hitting some of the biggest trails and getting incredible powder runs. I paused on a few occasions after taking in the view or hitting a big run and said to myself: ‘‘a year ago I was struggling to walk and here I am living as I wished.’’
I took this picture whilst on top of the mountain as the lifts were closing. We couldn’t drag ourselves away from the view and sat for thirty minutes taking it all in. The air was cold and crisp and the sky was a perfect blue. It seemed we could have heard a pin drop from down in the valley below, the air was so still. The lifts were closed and we had the mountain to ourselves. We eventually set off and boarded back down what felt like our own mountain. Life is incredible.
A month after returning from holiday I went to a TEDx event held at the London Business School, called Kaleidoscope. I had been two years previously and was looking forward to hearing the various speakers to see what I could learn. I was there with a friend and we enjoyed the day taking in the beautiful surroundings just behind the Royal Albert Hall where it was being held. After the lunch break we went back to the auditorium for the afternoon session of speakers.
A female doctor came on and began to discuss stem cell research stating that it would change the future. The talk was on all aspects of stem cells and what they could do, from helping us with diseases to brain injury and transplants. After explaining how stem cells worked, she went on to talk about tissue and organ replacements using 3D bio printing machines with stem cell regenerative medicine. She said: “this is one of the most exciting parts of the research and it is in its early stages. A scan is taken of the organ and then a special bio gel is used to form a model of the part being replaced, then the stem cells would then be put on it to replicate it.”
The example she used was a heart valve.
I turned to my mate with a look of awe and realisation. I had to stop myself from jumping up in the air with a fist pump and shouting: ‘YES!’
She went on to say the science was in its infancy and the time scale was ten to twenty years before it was viable, but that they were working towards it. I left the event mesmerised by her talk which had eclipsed the others in my mind.
During the summer I had a meeting in central London not far from Farringdon Tube station and decided to walk to the Tube to get back to the office. I found myself walking past Bart’s hospital and as it was a sunny day I decided to sit on a nearby bench outside the hospital and take a moment to contemplate. I sat down on the stone bench and after a few moments a taxi pulled up right in front of me. The front passenger door opened quickly and out got a middle aged man, and from the rear driver’s side an elderly women. They hurriedly went round to the rear passenger door and help an elderly man get out.
The man had oxygen tubes coming out of his nose, a bottle of oxygen with him, which they carried, and he was taking everything very slowly. The son and wife (I presume) cared for him and helped him walk as best he could. As they closed the door to the taxi he started hobbling along with a cane in one hand and paused for a moment, staring at me.
I sat there looking straight at him and gave a gentle, reassuring smile. I could see a wonderful sense of life in his eyes mixed with fear. I felt like I was staring directly into his soul, his eyes looked like glass balls as they reflected the light with a rich brown coloured centre. He slowly lifted his arm and gave me a thumbs up with a heartwarming smile.
In such a beautiful moment of connection no words were spoken, just an acknowledgement to each other. I couldn’t help but feel elated, I didn’t know what this man was about to go to or what he had already gone through, but I remembered that I couldn’t have managed the walk he was doing at one time and now I could do anything.
In the space of six months I had competed in a boxing match and had open heart surgery. In the following six months I had survived to have, for the first time, a fully functioning heart and be in the best shape of my life.