Heart Condition Cant Slow Down South Mountain Resident
During a hot summer day in July, triathlete and South Mountain resident Christian Broadwell was in the middle of a training ride up South Mountain with his wife and fellow triathlete Elisabeth Lawaczeck when a strange, although familiar, sensation overwhelmed his body.
“I just felt funny,” recalled Broadwell, who is an associate broker for Saba Realty and the president/founder of TriBasics, a manufacturer of custom bike boxes. “I was a little dizzy, my strength was low and I just didn’t feel right.”
Although he had experienced similar symptoms multiple times before while biking and swimming, including during Ironman Arizona in March and the Xterra Alabama race in June, he knew this time something was different.
He was right.
Unknown to him at the time, his heart was racing rapidly at 230 beats per minute – a fact he verified after returning home and putting on a heart rate monitor. Figuring his pulse would slow after resting for awhile, he laid down. After 45 minutes, Lawaczeck, who is the public health veterinarian with the Arizona Department of Health Services, decided to use a different device to confirm the reading from the heart rate monitor.
“I took the stethoscope out and put it on his heart, and I couldn’t find it,” Lawaczeck remembered. “I kept repositioning the stethoscope and finally I found a rhythm. It was soft and as fast as his heart rate monitor was saying.”
The seriousness of the situation increased after an electrocardiogram test was administered at Urgent Care. That was followed up by a trip to Phoenix Memorial Hospital via ambulance and a series of tests. Eventually, Broadwell ended up at Good Samaritan Hospital, where he stayed for eight days. When he was finally able to go home, the 41-year-old left the hospital with a defibrillator implanted in his chest to help restore his heart’s natural rhythm and a goal of racing in October at the Xterra World Championships in Maui – an event covering nearly 27 miles of swimming, mountain biking and running.
“Everyone was fearful of me trying to think that should be a goal,” said Broadwell, who found out his heart condition was due to a viral infection. “In my mind, I was going to do it. I was going to do everything possible to slowly get back to the condition where I could actually go out there and do that.”
While Broadwell set his sights on qualifying for the Xterra competition, Lawaczeck continued training to compete in an elite race of her own – the Ironman World Championship – which was set to take place in Kona, Hawaii, a week prior to her husband’s race.
“It was really hard training for Ironman without my training partner,” she said. “Christian makes it fun to train.”
While Lawaczeck qualified for her race, Broadwell needed a little assistance getting to the starting line of his competition. Since he didn’t qualify, his wife initiated an e-mail campaign that led to the race director granting Broadwell entry into the contest. Even though their normal training routines were interrupted, both triathletes ended up finishing their respective races.
“It was really cool participating in two world championships like that,” Lawaczeck added. “We’re very thankful that we both finished unscathed.”
Next up for Broadwell is competing in his first adventure race this month at Lake Mead. As well, thanks to an invitation by three-time Ironman champion Ute Mueckel, the couple is planning a trip to Germany next July to participate in an Ironman-distance race.
In addition to competing, Broadwell recently became a spokesperson for Medtronic, the manufacturer of his defibrillator. He started his new role last month by speaking to a group in California, where he shared the symptoms he experienced and demonstrated how people with defibrillators can still live active lifestyles.
Already, as word of his experience has spread, numerous people have contacted Broadwell to say they’ve suffered similar symptoms. His goal, he said, is to increase awareness of these warning signs as well as the activities that should be limited during a cold, especially if it’s a viral cold.
“Those things aren’t talked about much,” he added. “Everybody wants to know how you run faster, bike faster, swim faster and eat properly. You don’t talk about the medical side.”
Broadwell is available for speaking engagements by calling 480-206-1258.