The Power Of Love
Sitting in a Stroke Ward of a hospital, unable to walk, with restricted arm use and immersed in the total confusion of an early diagnosis of Multiple Sclerosis, is an usual time and place to make a personal declaration to run a half marathon within the next 12 months. But that is exactly what Currimundi’s Andrew Heaphy did in late 2016.
Six months later, a motivated, angry, battered and bruised Andrew, lived up to his promise to himself, his family and supporters, defiantly running 21km in a touch over 1:45, showing that he won’t be defined by his illness.
“I did the Noosa half marathon last year with two months of training and I injured myself because I was over doing it and I couldn’t feel my feet. I had never done all the nutritional things and I was so determined to push myself that I ended up with ITB injuries. I had five or six falls along the way because that is part of MS because you can’t feel your feet and the balance underneath.”
Andrew’s story is one of defiance, anger and determination, all wrapped up in an unwavering love and support of his family and friends, and the discovery that running can actually change your life.
“I am an Intensive Care Nurse so it was pretty tough being on the other side and find myself in the Intensive Care Unit. They gave me adrenalin, I almost required CPR and there was thoughts of putting me on a ventilator at one stage which was pretty scary. I was quite unwell.”
Andrew was in hospital for two weeks and then had a week of neuro rehabilitation at Caloundra beginning the slow process of learning how to walk again and to reuse his upper limbs.
“I am pretty determined so when I was in hospital I had little goals that I set myself each day. From just being able to walk a metre down the hallway, it went from five metres to 20 metres. I did a lot of research into rewiring the brain and repetitive actions. I guess some of the neuro rehab exercises they gave me in hospital then made me think about trying to rewire everything, using other parts of my brain. As a nurse I know you can do that. So the goal was to walk first and then to run.”
“I had some very low times in hospital where I thought I was never going to walk again and I was going to be stuck in a wheel chair. When I was in hospital I set myself so many little goals to achieve and it was the little one day wins that got me through. Things like the five metre runs. I don’t know how to word it but I wasn’t going to give in. I had down times in hospital and I had my kids come in and I put on a brave face but I was doing everything that was humanly possible to not end up not being able to work, not being able to walk.
“If you tell me I can’t do something I am the sort of guy who will go out of the way to push it. I am a very determined bloke, and I guess I was lucky after making the decision to do something like that, that I had a local running group called Dark Runners on the Sunshine Coast and also the local “parkrun” that cemented that I would be able to do it.”
“I have a local café and that is 700m down the road and part of our routine before I became unwell was to walk the kids there before school for a hot chocolate, so it became my first goal of getting some distance and that took me about three weeks to achieve. Living in Currimundi being able to walk to the beach was another thing that I loved doing before I had issues with my legs. So I managed that walk, up and back. Then I started to trot five metres and walk five metres. The walk/run interval training was important and all the time I had my wife there beside me.”
“I have had an unbelievable improvement in my health with the running. Now it is everyday doing something extremely active. I can’t thank the running community enough for getting me where I am at the moment. It is part of everyday life, whereas it wasn’t before.”
This year, at Runaway Noosa Marathon (26 May) Andrew is back, but this time he is not running in anger or to prove a point, but running to support his wife Britt in her first half marathon and to celebrate their love for each other.
“I did about 1:45 last year and a lot of that was anger with being in that position but this year I am running with Britt in her first half marathon. Her maximum distance was probably five km at the beginning of this year but we have cranked up the kms and she has gotten up to half marathon distance in the last two months. We now use our time running together to chat about what is happening and family stuff. It is now an integral part of our life and we didn’t have that until 18 months ago.”
“Britt is not a runner, she is six feet tall and hates running, but we are running together because it is something we’ve done together to get through all this. There is a little hill called Sunset Drive out the back of Caloundra and when Britt did her first 21km training run we all clapped her up the hill. It took her months to get there but now she knows she can complete the course.”
“I am really looking forward to sharing this run with my wife Britt and the kids who will be on the finish line. What has happened to me is also Britt’s story, she has supported me at every stage and been there beside me, so this year’s run is definitely going to be a bit emotional. We just found out there is going to be music all the way along the course so it is going to be a celebration of just being able to run,” Andrew said.