Amazing Medicine

Jeff Hardisty, Eugene, Oregon

Triple bypass open heart surgery

At age 46, Eugene resident Jeff Hardisty laced up his shoes and set out to run the Seattle Marathon. Finishing the race would be an accomplishment anyone could be proud of; however, Jeff’s story is even more impressive when you learn what he was doing— or rather what was being done to him— just seven short months prior to the start of the race.

“On April 25, 2005, I underwent triple-bypass surgery at Sacred Heart Medical Center,” said Jeff.

It was during his marathon training that Jeff noticed something wasn’t right.

“I developed a strange sensation in my windpipe while running, and I would cough excessively after my run. I also had some tightening down one arm. I thought maybe I had asthma, but when the tightening in my arm didn’t go away, I knew it was time to see my doctor,” he said.

A stress test revealed several blocked arteries. Jeff was booked for an angiogram right away, and two days later, he had open-heart surgery. His marathon training would have to be put on hold, for now.

Jeff wasn’t completely surprised that he developed heart trouble at age 45. His father passed away from a heart attack in 1966, at age 46. Jeff was only six years old at the time.

“The big question of my life had always been whether or not what happened to my dad would happen to me,” Jeff explained. While they both experienced similar health issues at similar times in their lives, their outcomes were very different.

Jeff came through a successful surgery at Sacred Heart that restored proper blood flow to and from his heart. After leaving the hospital, he started cardiac rehabilitation at the Oregon Heart & Vascular Institute (OHVI). There he learned more about the benefits of exercise and a heart-healthy diet.

“As well as I thought I was eating, there were still things I didn’t know about my diet. Going through the cardiac rehabilitation program was like having my own team of personal trainers there to help me,” he said.

Even though he was recovering from major surgery, Jeff still had the goal of running a marathon. The Portland race (the race he was originally training for) was approaching too quickly, but the Seattle Marathon was still seven months away. Under the careful watch of his team at OHVI, Jeff set his sights on Seattle.

“I trained up until the day of the race. I really didn’t know if I could make it the whole way, but I wanted to try. My family was there to cheer me on, and I wore a heart rate monitor to make sure I wasn’t overdoing it,” Jeff explained.

The result? Jeff Hardisty crossed the finish line, setting a personal best of 4 hours and 23 minutes.

“I don’t know if I could describe all of the emotions I felt at that moment. I thought about my dad, and how things had turned out so differently for us, and my mom, who I had lost a few months earlier,” Jeff said.

“And in some way,” he recalled, “I felt like I had run the race for others, but at the time I wasn’t sure who. Later, when I started volunteering to help cardiac rehabilitation patients, I realized the other people I was running for, were those coming after me,” he explained.

In the five years since Jeff’s surgery, he has completed two more marathons, three IRONMAN Triathlons, and many other long-distance races. Jeff also continues to volunteer every week helping heart patients at Oregon Heart & Vascular Institute. He shares his story about running a marathon seven months after open-heart surgery with other post-operative patients, hoping to inspire them in their recovery. He’s also started a website and written a short book about his experience called Make Mine a Triple… Bypass That Is.

“I’m a survivor. I want to help motivate people to reach their goals,” he explained.

Later this year, he will travel across the country to run in a marathon with a team of cardiac athletes. Just as he’s done before, Jeff Hardisty will run the race in honor of the patients he has yet to meet and motivate, those who are just starting to learn what it means to be a survivor.

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