A true ‘change of heart’: Triathlon the next step after surgery, pacemaker
By Susan Shinn
CHINA GROVE ó On Nov. 3, Steve Hogge had surgery to repair an aortic aneurysm. A week later, his heart stopped.
On May 30, he’ll participate in the Godstock triathlon, his first such endeavor.
To say Hogge has come a long way in nearly six months is obviously an understatement.
“I tell my wife all the time I’ve had a change of heart,” says Hogge, 45.
Six months ago, he felt nowhere as good as he feels now.
“I’d really let myself go before this,” says Hogge, who carried 256 pounds on his 5-foot, 8-inch frame.
(He may have gotten a bit more height with his spiky salt-and-pepper hair.)
But there he was in his mid-40s, having a dull pain in his chest.
He decided it was time to get a good physical.
His job wasn’t helping.
He’s a truck driver for Nabisco, and freely admits to nibbling on Oreos in the truck ó driving and eating, driving and eating.
But all that changed when his doctor wanted to admit him to the hospital overnight for tests.
He awoke the next morning to see a heart surgeon at his bedside, telling him he had an aortic aneurysm.
He was allowed to go home for the weekend. He went out to eat with his family, which includes wife Pam and daughters Stephanie, who’s still at home, and Christina McLambe.
He reported to the hospital Monday morning, Nov. 3, for a 10 1/2-hour surgery.
Normally, you’d expect someone who’s getting ready to have major surgery to be a bit apprehensive, freaked out, even.
“It was my faith that was rock solid,” he says. “I had confidence that the Lord had placed me into the right hands. I was confident in every step.”
As far as Hogge was concerned, it was a win-win situation either way ó or as he likes to say, “winner winner, chicken dinner.”
The surgery went well. Hogge spent six days in rehab and then went home, only to return to the emergency room nine hours later when his heart stopped.
Luckily, his younger daughter is a certified nursing assistant. She instructed Pam Hogge to put her husband on the floor.
“When they moved me,” he says, “the jolt got my heart going again.”
He was awake for the ambulance ride back to Carolinas Medical Center-Northeast.
“That was the longest ride I’ve ever had,” Hogge says. “I remember every mile.”
Hogge needed emergency surgery for a temporary pacemaker. A permanent one was put in a couple days later.
But Hogge’s health problems were far from over.
A week later, he was diagnosed with congestive heart failure, and had to have fluid drained from his heart.
“The most disheartened and discouraged I felt was the day before that procedure,” Hogge says. “I felt bad. I couldn’t breathe. It was a slow process. It set in and I kept feeling worse and worse.”
But the procedure, he says, was a turning point.
“It’s been all uphill and positive since then,” Hogge says.
He came home to stay a couple of days before Thanksgiving. He was, as you’d expect, glad to get home.
“I thought they were gonna name a hall after me up there,” he says.
Per doctor’s orders, he rested during December, and started a 12-week cardiac rehab program in January.
He saw a 35 percent improvement in his stress test.
He’d started losing weight in the hospital, and has lost 60 pounds altogether.
“They taught me to discipline myself and count out servings,” Hogge says.
He cut his fat intake to 40 grams a day.
No more Oreos in the cab.
Once in a while, he says, a cookie is OK. One cookie.
When he finished rehab, he started working out at the South Rowan YMCA.
He chose to join the Y because it offered a variety of exercise options for him.
Then he decided to train for the Godstock triathlon. He’d met John Bouk, the organization’s president, at the ballpark ó they’re both avid fans.
But Hogge worried he’d “get in the way.”
Nonsense, Bouk said. Come on out.
“That’s no problem,” Bouk says. “He has medical back-up here. If there is an issue with anyone, we’re prepared to handle it. If he feels good about it, we feel good about it.
“I hope that some people will read his story and get motivated.”
Hogge, who’s run track and coached, started out slow.
“I basically did the same thing I did at rehab,” he says. “I got on the treadmill on Monday, Wednesday and Friday.”
He continued strength training to keep his heart healthy.
He gradually added biking and swimming.
The Godstock triathlon includes a quarter-mile swim, a 12-mile bike ride and a 3.1-mile run.
Right now, he’s working on establishing a “good, safe pace,” for the triathlon.
He feels he’s “very much on track” for his training regimen.
“Every stroke I swim, every time I pedal the bike, every step I make is going to be a testament to what God has done in my life,” Hogge says.
He’s not interested in setting any records, but he has set some pace goals. He’d like to complete his swimming in 6 minutes, biking in 50 and running in 30.
“I’ll walk some,” he says, and he’s OK with that. “I say I’ll walk, but I may just get out there and jog it on out.”
Hogge has had two conversion experiences in his life, he says ó when he accepted the Lord in 1973 and when he had surgery on Nov. 3, 2008.
And he recites the Bible verses from Psalms 34:1-3 that he says now define his life more than ever.
“I will bless the Lord at all times; his praise shall continually be in my mouth.
“My soul makes its boast in the Lord; let the afflicted hear and be glad.
“O magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt his name together!”
“That’s basically what the Lord has done,” he says.
The second annual Godstock Triathlon is Saturday, May 30, at the South Rowan YMCA, beginning at 8 a.m. Check-in begins at 7 a.m. Relay team competition is available.
St. Mark’s Lutheran Church, China Grove, is the triathlon’s presenting sponsor. All proceeds from the event benefit Godstock’s Community Aid Fund.
For more information or to register, call the Y at 704-857-7011.