An Athlete at Heart: Chris’s Story

An Athlete at Heart: Chris’s Story


Part of racing on a bike is suffering. And one of the first races that I did was
in Spain I was descending and I crashed at probably 40 miles an hour. Before I had even gotten up, there was a mechanic
with another bike and there was no question you’re
going to get back on the bike and go. And you apply that
logic to, you know, sort of everything else. My name is Chris Duffy. I was diagnosed with heart failure at 23. I had a heart transplant at 29 and I’ve
been a patient of Dr. Baggish at the Mass General Cardiovascular Performance Program
since 2015. The Cardiovascular Performance Program is
designed to take care of athletes and highly active
individuals with either heart disease or risk for heart disease. So the Cardiovascular Performance Program
at Massachusetts General Hospital is the first of its kind. We’re made up of a team of clinicians who,
as athletes ourselves, understand the active lifestyle of our patients. I was living in Spain and got this weird gastro
bug, didn’t really know what it was and like an idiot I was
like, well, I’m going to try and fight through this and probably got on my bike too quickly
and I started training again and just never really felt
good. I didn’t feel horrible. I didn’t feel like I was going to pass
out and, you know, sort of die but I knew it felt good. So I go to get the cardiac ultrasound done
and he reads the results and says we should just
double check this. So long story short, he’s just kind of
shocked and says, you shouldn’t be able to walk down the street. And I said well it’s impossible that I’m
in heart failure because I rode my bike 50 miles this morning. Chris’ story as an athlete and a patient
is incredible. He really highlights our collaboration with
our sister institutions. He received both his heart failure and transplant
care at the Brigham and the cardiologist there recognized his identity as an athlete
and the importance to preserve that. And they referred him
here to the Cardiovascular Performance Program at Mass General. Chris, as most athletes would do, got back
on the bike within days of having his transplant and this
should come as no surprise but part of Chris’ recovery, part of his recovery of his identity,
was to figure out how to maintain his place in the world
of cycling. It doesn’t matter how good of a cardiologist
they are, no matter how good of a doctor they are, doctors
you often get a sense don’t understand what… you know, you tell a doctor you go for a bike
ride and they say it’s, oh great you ride a bike for
10 miles. Yeah and then another 70. Recovery from any form of heart disease is
a process. It doesn’t happen overnight and what we do
is work with patients to figure out the rate
with which recovery should occur and we give them milestones
and benchmarks that we as doctors but also they, as athletes, can use to gauge their
recovery. I had actually heard of Dr. Baggish from a
number people. It was great. You know, here was a guy that
kind of not only sort of could treat me in terms of he’s a cardiologist, but he’s an
athlete. Chris in many ways represents a situation
that we get into with many of our patients where we work
with them to develop a care paradigm that fits their goals, their objectives and also
what we know medically about them. He kind of understood off the bat, me. It was really important to me and my wife
that if I was going start cross-country ski racing at first and
then mountain bike racing and then maybe even road racing
again, that I do it in a way that was smart. And our partnership has really been about
helping him do that in a way that compliments the superb
care he gets from the heart failure transplantation doctors but enabling him to be the cyclist
he wants to do while simultaneously not jeopardizing the
safety of his transplant. Working with Dr. Baggish really is sort of
something that I would believe anyway but it validated it. Sort
of having conversations with him made me feel like I wasn’t crazy, that I’m not crazy
for doing these things. That so long as it’s again done in an intelligent
way that there’s no reason I shouldn’t sort of be
healthy again and to sort of live life normally. It allows you to do that without sort of concern
or fear. You’ve got someone in your corner.

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