Real life: Living with a congenital heart defect
WF spoke to Kristy Buchanan who walked in the Heart Foundation’s CBR100 challenge, completing the 50km leg of the event. What makes her accomplishment even more amazing? Buchanan has struggled with serious heart complications since birth.
Kristy Buchanan was born with a serious congenital heart defect. Despite this, she hasn’t let it get in the way of achieving great things. We spoke to her about her story and why she believes the work the Heart Foundation does is so important for all of us.
Can you explain a little about your congenital heart defect? How does it affect you?
I was born with Transposition of the Great Arteries (TGA) and Muscular Ventricular Septal Defect (VSD). I had a Mustard Atrial Baffle Repair that was satisfactory with a borderline normal Right Ventricular (RV) Function. For many years it meant no more than a scar that ran down my chest and an annual trip to Sydney for the doctor to view my heart via ultrasound. Today I am aware of my condition more than ever due to my heart becoming weak and through experiencing Atrial Fibrillation during my second pregnancy.
Were you into sports and fitness growing up?
I was always active during my childhood. I played many different sports growing up and competed in school cross country and athletics.
What made you enter the CBR100?
I guess I was looking for a challenge. I had heard about this challenge and looked it up for more details. When I discovered that I had the opportunity to raise money for the Heart Foundation by participating, I could not pass it up.
For those who aren’t familiar with the event, what does the CBR100 involve?
The CBR100 is an event in which participants can choose to either run or walk a distance of 25km, 50km or 100km. I chose to participate in the 50km leg, as this was the first time I had committed to such a distance.
What did your fitness regime look like before CBR100?
Since the birth of second child and my heart becoming weak, I began to either walk, ride or run on a regular basis. For the past twelve years I have strengthened my heart to the point where my cardiologist is satisfied with it.
What kind of training did you do for it?
I have been active on a regular basis. So to train for this I just had to increase the distance of my normal routines.
What did you enjoy the most about competing?
For me, the event was not a competition, it was a personal challenge. My husband, who is the biggest support in my life, was kind enough to walk with me on the day for support. If it was not for him I am not sure how I would’ve gone. I enjoyed having him by my side. The absolute highlight was reaching the top of Mount Ainslie. I knew then that I had achieved the challenge, it was just downhill from there.
What was the toughest part?
The biggest challenge was the heat. The day was very hot (36 degrees) and unrelenting with no cloud cover (thank goodness for the watermelon at the checkpoints).
Is it something you’d do again?
I would definitely participate in this event again. I would like to think I could attempt the 100km leg next year.
How did you fundraise? And how much money did you raise?
I used the ‘Every Day Hero’ website which was linked to the CBR100 website for those participants who wanted to fundraise for the Heart Foundation. I raised over $800 with the help of friends and family via social media.
Have you been involved in any other fundraising activity for the Heart Foundation?
No, not before this.
What messages would you like to share about awareness of heart health?
This is a hard question to answer because I know that each heart case is individual. I guess I would like to remind people that your heart is a muscle. Healthy muscles keep you strong and allow you to live the lifestyle you desire. Too much stress and overworking of your muscles could lead to straining them. Make sure you maintain a balance of work, rest and play for your heart’s sake.
Women’s Fitness is raising money for the National Heart Foundation during June. To donate to this very worthy cause head to our Everyday Hero page.