In an emotional video posted on 13 August 2021 on video-sharing platform YouTube, professional Ironman athlete, Tim O’Donnell reveals he suffered a heart attack on 12 March 2021, during Challenge Miami.
“It turns out I actually had a heart attack during the race,” opens O’Donnell.
He goes onto explain that the “heart attack I suffered was from a block in my LAD, which is one of the main arteries”.
According to MyHeart.net, “LAD stands for left anterior descending artery. It is a coronary artery, which is the name given to arteries that supply the heart muscle with blood.
“The [LAD] typically supplies over half over the heart muscle with blood, so twice as much as the other coronary arteries.
“For this reason, a major blockage at the beginning of the artery is known as ‘the widow maker’!”
Quoting the American Heart Association, an article published in Time says that “the survival rate following a widow maker heart attack is only 12% when it occurs outside of a hospital or advanced care centre”.
O’Donnell continues to explain that he had a “soft plaque rupture – a build-up of plaque in the interior wall of my artery that burst”, leading to his artery becoming at least 80% blocked.
Watching the video footage, it’s clear to see he was in trouble on the bike.
“I started getting chest pains across my chest, shooting pain down my left arm and then my jaw started to lock up,” says O’Donnell.
Emotionally charged from the life-changing experience, O’Donnell breaks down as he continues to share his story: “Give me a second,” he says with tears in his eyes.
O’Donnell goes on to say that once in the hospital the doctors found the blockage and cleared it.
“It’s a crazy story, not one that you would expect to hear,” says O’Donnell.
“Literally, one of the fittest guys out there, right. Just coming off a podium at the IRONMAN World Championship. To go to a race and suffer a heart attack with no real warnings.
“It’s a crazy story but when you start digging it’s actually something that happens a lot.
“There’s a lot of healthy guys my age that have the same experience.
“I’m one of the fortunate ones that’s here being able to talk about it – that’s left to tell the story,” he says.
Ending the video post, O’Donnell says he’s doing better – his “heart is doing better” – “dodged a bullet and now we’re moving forward”.
“It’s going to change my perspective on life, that’s for sure. It’s a gift,” he says.
a warning to all of us
Healthline.com shares more detail about this type of heart attack – from the symptoms, risk factors, treatment, management and more.
But the clear message to all of us (women as much as men): Don’t take your health for granted and make sure you’re getting regular medical check-ups.
You may be the fittest person on earth, but it’s clear by O’Donnell’s experience, that no one is immune to major health issues.
As a friend posted on social media yesterday: “A timely reminder that even the perceived healthiest and fittest athletes in the world can have risk factors for exercise … it makes great sense to visit your GP to get screened for individual risk factors!”