Even after competing in marathons around the world, Wayne Wright couldn’t run from heart disease.
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Host: On a blistering Florida morning, Wayne Wright warms up for a 3.1 mile foot race, one of many he's competed in. But this race is remarkable, not necessarily because of the event itself, but because of what it represents victory over cardiac disease. Wayne Wright: When it comes to heart disease you always think about what genes did you inherit. So I looked at my parents. They grew up on a high-fat diet, they smoked, they never got any cardiovascular exercise and they both lived until they are 80s. I think if they were everything wrong and I was doing everything right, I had mate, instead I almost died before I was 60. Host: Wayne and his wife Fiona, a nurse have long been health conscious. Fiona: We're extremely active, we do a lot of running and other sports and we watch our diet very carefully, we try to take a low fat, low sodium, low calorie. Host: Wayne and Fiona set a goal to compete in a marathon in every state and in every continent. They were well on their way to meeting that goal when the unexpected happened. Wayne Wright: I was in a 6 mile race, had only just started, in the first mile still and I felt like someone reached into my rib cage, grab my heart and started squeezing, like they will ring out a sponge. Host: He stayed in the race and the pain subsided. He says his doctor diagnosed it as muscle strain, during the next few weeks he ran two marathons and skied in like Tahoe, but the pain came back and got worse. So he went to the ER. Cardiologist on duty ordered a test to look for blockages. Fiona: The cardiologist came out, came to talk to me and he told me right off the bat your husband has significant coronary artery disease. I thought I misheard him. I was stunned. Wayne Wright: I went, wait a minute, I'm on marathoner. I can't be anything that bad. No way. He said, well, you need bypass surgery. Host: While he accepted his condition, he refused to succumb to it. Almost immediately after surgery and with his doctor's permission he started the walking routine. Wayne Wright: After 4 weeks I went in for follow up and my surgeons said you can run up to a mile then I want you to walk a few minutes. Host: Gradually, Wayne was able to run more while walking less and soon he was ready for a marathon. Wayne Wright: The next one coming out was The Flying Pig in Cincinnati. It was 45 days after surgery. Fiona: He was anticipating that he could run in 6 hours, because he was running, walking combination. I was thinking because he has been doing so very, very well in his recovery that he'll be more like 5 hours. Wayne Wright: It turned out I had a 04:37, I guess I had a good day. Just being alive and able to participate needed a great day. Host: While Wayne learned that anyone even an accomplish runner can develop coronary artery disease, his doctors told him that his heart-healthy lifestyle, likely contributed to his swift recovery and he has learned another important lesson. Wayne Wright: Pain is your body's way of telling you something's wrong. In my case I very likely challenged death by not stopping when I had my angina attack in that race. I'm lucky. Host: And he offers these words of encouragement to other cardiac patients. Wayne Wright: There's no reason to stop doing the things you like. Sure, you may have to do a little slower for a while, but you keep doing it.