Heart patient to Ironman in just 16 months

Image copyright Golden Jubilee Hospital
Image caption Norrie Hunter has completed his first Ironman triathlon after recovering from life-saving heart surgery

An Ayrshire man has gone from heart surgery to a long-distance triathlon in just 16 months.

Norrie Hunter, from Symington, completed his first Ironman race after being inspired by a book about a cancer patient who took up the sport.

He read the story while recovering from life-saving heart surgery at the Golden Jubilee National Hospital in Clydebank and started training six weeks later.

He completed a 2.4 mile swim, a 112 mile bicycle ride and a 26.22 mile run.

The 36-year-old found out he may have had a congenital heart condition while tending to his unwell mother.

Breathing difficulties

Mr Hunter said: “My mum was on her deathbed and she said she believed there was a history of heart problems in the family and she wanted me to get checked out, so I promised her I would.”

Then Norrie, a seasoned marathon runner, experienced breathing difficulties during a competition. Although he finished the race he decided he needed a check-up.

Through this process he discovered that he had been born with a Bicuspid Aortic Valve (BAV) leading to an enlarged left ventricle.

Image copyright Norrie Hunter
Image caption Norrie Hunter had heart surgery 16 months ago but is now competing successfully in Ironman triathlons

A (BAV) is an inherited form of heart disease in which two of the leaflets of the aortic valve fuse during development in the womb resulting in a two-leaflet valve (bicuspid valve) instead of the normal three-leaflet valve (tricuspid).

The condition is commonly not diagnosed until adulthood because the defective valve can function for years without causing any symptoms.

He was booked into the Scottish Adult Congenital Cardiac Service (SACCS) at the Golden Jubilee hospital for heart surgery in March 2018.

After just six weeks’ recuperation, Norrie decided to start training again and downloaded a fitness app to get going.

Just 16 months later Norrie was able to compete in his first Ironman.

‘Operation Ironman’

Norrie added: “It was while recovering in my hospital bed that I was given a book called Operation Ironman.

Image copyright Norrie Hunter
Image caption Norrie Hunter after the swimming part of his triathlon in Bolton

“Written by George Mahood, it describes the authors’ journey from the discovery of a cancerous growth wrapped round his spine to competing, four months later, in the Ironman triathlon. It was inspiring.

“I feel like I’ve been given my life back. I’m not quite back to the strength that I was before the operation but I’m still running and I refuse to be defined by a scratch on my chest.”

NHS Golden Jubilee nurse practitioner Jim Mearns said: “I am delighted to hear about Norrie’s achievements. Regaining his fitness and strength so quickly after heart surgery is not only testament to his own strength and determination, but also to the great skill of our own dedicated and caring staff.

“It’s wonderful to hear that once our patients leave the NHS Golden Jubilee National Hospital, they continue to grow in strength.”

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