By Emily Holcroft
I nearly died in 2012 after my femoral artery was nicked during a “routine” hysterectomy. They told my husband as I was being rushed back in for emergency surgery to “call your Pastor, she most likely will not make it.” I can’t imagine how he must have felt. Nearly losing his wife and 4 young children without their mom. When you experience something like that it changes your entire outlook on life. Every single thing I count as a blessing and absolute treasure. I had always been very active up until having children. They took up every single waking hour of my day. Exercising was the last thing on my list. If I could squeeze a walk in it was a great day! I wanted to do something for myself again. I slowly began running and swimming.
Many of my closest friends are marathoners and were always doing some sort of race. Knowing my aversion to running they suggested I try a 5K. My first 5K was the Color Vibe! A great race to distract me from the pain of running. For some reason it sparked my interest to try yet something even more challenging….a triathlon! Why not? I can swim and run and how hard can it be to bike? I started training for my first triathlon in February 2013. I signed up for the Bethany Beach sprint triathlon for that September. My times were getting faster and my distances longer. I couldn’t believe it. My husband was so supportive. It felt great.
About 3 weeks shy of my race I began experiencing shortness of breath and extreme fatigue while training. I had a history of TIA’s (transient ischemic attack or mini strokes) which led to heart surgery to repair a large hole in my heart in 2009 and leaving me with residual weakness to my entire left side. But this didn’t feel anything like that. I was having extreme pain to my left arm. Nothing would relieve it. Thinking I pulled a muscle while swimming I backed off on my training. However, the pain continued and the fatigue and shortness of breath worsened. I was so frustrated! I had a race in less than 3 weeks! After 3 days of this I got back in the pool and couldn’t make a lap let alone get out of the pool. The pain in my arm worsened as I tried to make it to work. My co-worker took one look at me and insisted that I go to the ER. They ran an EKG and took some bloodwork. Everything was normal. I begged them to, at the very least, ultrasound my arm to rule out a blood clot. Can you tell that I am a nurse? They refused and discharged me with a diagnosis of panic attack and gave me a prescription for an anti-anxiety medication.
Two hours later I collapsed on my living room floor with the most excruciating “elephant on the chest” pain they describe on TV. I was rushed back to the ER. A cardiac catheterization revealed 4 blockages. While trying to place stents to open up the arteries they dissected my left main artery, exactly one year to the week, that I nearly died from a nicked femoral artery! I was rushed in for emergency open heart surgery for a quadruple bypass. After waking up in ICU 4 days later I saw my surgeon standing at the foot of my bed. My first sentence was “does this mean I can’t do my triathlon?” The scary thing was that I was serious! He smiled saying, “not this year dear.”
After months of rehab and multiple setbacks I finally was given the green light from my cardiologist to begin exercising again. He said that he didn’t feel there was any reason why I couldn’t do a triathlon. My goal was to cross the finish line at the Bethany Beach Triathlon in September of 2014.
Unfortunately, my body wasn’t ready as I experienced fluid around my heart and pneumonia that winter. Third time is a charm right? YES! I finally crossed over that line in June 2015 at a local triathlon. That was my very first EARNED medal! I immediately signed up for the Bethany Beach Triathlon.
This was obviously a very sentimental race for me. Not only did I cross the finish line… I qualified for Nationals!! Unfortunately, time and finances kept me from going, but I was content and felt so blessed to have even had the opportunity. I have finished in the top 3 in my age group for several sprint and Olympic distance races over the last 3 years. I even had a 5th overall finish! My ultimate dream is to complete an Ironman. I am excited to see the plans God has for me! Never give up on your dreams!
Emily has been happily married to her college sweetheart for 24 years. She has four beautiful children ages 19, 17, 13 and 11. Emily graduated from the University of Delaware with a Bachelor’s of Science and Nursing in 1994 and currently works in the Student Health Center at the University of Delaware. She is 100% summer girl and loves watching her kids’ soccer games, swim meets, and musicals. Emily dreams of having an RV and traveling to all of the 50 states! She is humbled by God’s grace, mercy and love!