On the morning of March 15th 2008, six days after giving birth to her third child, Lindsay Dibowitz went into full cardiac arrest for 97 minutes. Lindsay was resuscitated with a defibrillator 9 times as her husband watched helplessly while the doctor refused to give up. Lindsay was only 34 years old at the time as it unexpectedly happened in her home in front of her children and husband.
Lindsay suffers from a disorder called SCAD (spontaneous cardiac artery dissection) otherwise known as sudden death syndrome. No one saw it coming. In the weeks that followed Lindsay was kept sedated and ventilated until strong enough to have an angiogram. Once this was done stents were put into her artery. She moved in and out of the cardiac ICU for the better part of 2008 and was on various drugs for many years after that.
Lindsay has no memory of the actual event and the days after it but remembers feeling weak, depressed, tired and pretty useless to her kids. During that year Lindsay put on roughly 20 kg – emotional eating was her new friend as it gave her comfort. After the heart attack she was always worried it would happen again. She remained scared all the time, scared to walk too far, scared to drive too far away from home, scared to take her children out alone, scared of herself and who she had become. Lindsay says: ‘I had lost my brave! Therefore the eating made me feel in control and safe.’
18 months later Lindsay attended her daughter’s gym class, which involved treadmill and floor work. Anger and jealousy overcame her as she resigned herself to the fact that she would never be able to do that again. The owner of the gym, now her mental health guru, insisted Lindsay get on that treadmill. He said: ‘I have you and if anything happens to you I will take care of you.’ So she walked on his treadmill with absolute fear of it and herself. Eventually she was walking faster and faster, her heart rate went up and she started to feel awesome. In an instant Lindsay had found her BRAVE on that treadmill.
Fast forward 2 years later and Lindsay finds herself mentally and physically strong and confident, wasting her second chance at life was not an option – and a newfound respect for the strength her body possesses. For two years after the treadmill episode, as she calls it, she got faster and braver. ‘I gained some confidence and started to find out that I was so much stronger than I had ever imagined. However I never lost sight of the fact that I had had a heart attack and I really listened to my body and rested when I needed to. I never pushed too hard out of my comfort zone but I always tried to do a little more a little faster and more often’ says a motivated Lindsay.
A close friend had completed the half Ironman in January 2013 and that totally inspired Lindsay. At the time she wasn’t even sure why or what would make someone want to do a triathlon but she knew she wanted to try despite not being able to swim or run more than 3 km but her determination was certainly there. ‘I was so driven to prove to myself that I was much stronger than I believed and anything is possible’ Lindsay recalls.
As a result Lindsay trained for a year, did not give up and cried a lot, but kept going. ‘I loved every minute of that first year of group training. I fell in love with the new people I met and their amazing stories. I fell in love with the new brave person I was becoming.’ Lindsay completed her first half Ironman in the January of 2014… and cried for days after. It was the most emotional time she could recall.
Having that SCAD was the worst and best day of my life. I woke up a different human being. I have such a different outlook on my life and what I’m supposed to do with it. My children are so much better for it too; they are healthy and fit and love being outdoors. We all eat well together and look after our bodies we were given. If I can go from Flatline to Finish line then so can you, all it takes is bravery and the will to try. I’m now a strong healthy person, I respect my body, I eat well and exercise is now my escape – not comfort eating!
I have since completed many smaller events and another half Ironman in Durban. I intend to do the half Ironman in Durban again and possibly get REALLY brave and do the FULL Ironman in the near future.
I’m a true IRONHEART – come and be brave with me.