Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Heart & Lung Transplant recipient overcomes health hurdles to run marathons

Mark Black

By Richard Amery - Lethbridge Herald

Motivational speaker Mark Black has never been one to let life’s hurdles slow him down — not even a huge hurdle like a heart and lung-transplant he received in 2002. After the successful operation in Ontario, Black ran his first half-marathon Halifax in 2004, then a full marathon in 2005, followed by several others.

“Most people fall short of what they can accomplish,” Black said from his Moncton home, Sunday. The 29-year-old motivational speaker is in Lethbridge to speak to the Runner’s Soul Marathon Club registration night, tonight at the Yates Memorial Centre at 7 p.m. — the first stop on a quick Western Canadian swing this week.

“I don’t think I’m special at all, I just hope people will push themselves to do what they are capable of,” he said.

Born with a congenital heart defect, he underwent emergency surgery when he was a day old. He recovered from that and then got heavily into school sports such as basketball, soccer and badminton. But when he was 13, his doctors told him to slow down. That lead the goal-focused young man to focus on drama. He took an English degree at Mount Allison University in Sackville, Ont. and then decided to be a teacher. However, midway through his education degree at age 22, he noticed he was tired all the time.

“Before I was very busy and active,” he said.

He added he could barely walk up stairs, and went to see the doctor who discovered he needed a heart transplant. Due to complications, they couldn’t just replace his heart, they had to replace his lungs, as well. So his doctors added him to the transplant list.

“I just slowly deteriorated. I could do day-to-day things like walk and eat, but not much else. I just noticed I was really tired.”

Because of that, his doctors recommended he not be a teacher as he would be exposed to too many germs.

“It was certainly a big change and adjustment,” he said.

After the transplant, he decided to train for a marathon through the Running Room, partially for the social aspect, but also to motivate him to exercise.

“I don’t have enough self-discipline to just exercise for my health. I need a goal to pursue,” he said.

His current goals are making his motivational speaking business a success, and more importantly to be a good dad to his newborn daughter and a good husband to his wife.

“Just being there for them. It’s a different type of goal. Having a daughter really changes the way you look at life. Having a baby creates a whole new set of priorities,” he said.

His doctors have advised him it is all right to push himself. In fact, he may start training for another marathon.

“They’ve reassured me it’s not dangerous,” he said.

The most important lesson he has learned from his experience is to never give up.

“A lot have people have run marathons and they all know there is a point in it where you just want to give up, but the end result is worth it. If you refuse to give up, you win. The ones who fail are the ones who quit,” he said.

“I’d rather die trying than quit. And here it is seven years later and I wouldn’t trade the last seven years for anything,” he emphasized adding there isn’t a day that he doesn’t thank his organ donors. He advised everyone considering being an organ donor to inform their families and friends about their wishes before the fact.

“I don’t know if I had a year if I could express my feelings. I’d tell them what I’ve done with their gifts that have given me a second chance. I’m never going to know who they are, but it’s not like there’s a day I’m not thinking about them.”

“You Have the Power to Save Lives – Sign Your Donor Card & Tell Your Loved Ones of Your Decision”

Register to be a donor in Ontario or Download Donor Cards from Trillium Gift of Life Network
For other Canadian provinces click here

In the United States, be sure to find out how to register in your state at ShareYourLife.org or Download Donor Cards from OrganDonor.Gov

In Great Britain, register at NHS Organ Donor Register

In Australia, register at Australian Organ Donor Register

Your generosity can save up to eight lives with heart, kidneys, liver, lungs, pancreas and small intestine transplants. One tissue donor can help up to 100 other people by donating skin, corneas, bone, tendon, ligaments and heart valves

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