It was 4 degrees outside when I took part in the 2023 Polar Plunge to raise money for the Minnesota Special Olympics.That’s incredibly cold. It’s extremely cold when you’re wearing a full set of layered clothing; even worse when you’re wearing a t-shirt, swimming trunks and a pair of tennis shoes while waiting your turn to jump in a frozen lake!
As a heart attack survivor, I’d heard so many concerns that the cold would be bad for my heart – bad for me – and that it was dangerous and I shouldn’t do it.
I did it anyway. I was part of a group of co-workers from the University of Minnesota. Our team leader, Bill, was integral in saving my life as I had died of a widowmaker heart attack in his office on August 21st, 2015.
Doing the Polar Plunge was an incredible challenge, both mentally and physically. The thought of jumping into extremely cold water is scary, even for those without heart issues. You can search the internet and find plenty of precautionary articles warning about the heart in cold weather. I am familiar with the danger of cold weather – in my earlier life I was a Boy Scout leader and taught outdoor survival, including winter survival. I knew the biggest danger from the cold is over-exerting yourself. This typically involves shoveling snow, or walking in heavy snow. I would be doing neither of those.
My cardiologist was okay with the Polar Plunge, stating, “There is an inherent risk in life. This is no different than getting into a minor fender bender.” I agreed with him.
In the video I talk about what happened, why I did it, and how it felt.
I wore an Apple Watch when I jumped and later looked at the heart rate data from it. It didn’t really seem to change much from before I jumped into the water to after.
I know there are a lot of heart attack survivors who feel that cold weather is dangerous. It is if you don’t handle it properly, but it’s nothing to be terrified of.
I did the Polar Plunge:
– Because it was a mental and physical challenge, and I don’t want to get comfortable. I want to challenge myself in life.
– To show solidarity with a group of people I work with whom I also care a great deal about.
– T0 show other heart attack survivors it’s okay to be afraid and anxious, and challenge yourself anyway.
This is a heart attack survivor story you can share with others.