As he was being wheeled into a tricky open-heat surgery, David Watkins wondered about the legacy he would leave to his daughters if he didn’t make it. Seventeen hours (and a full five minutes without a functional heart beat) later, he began a road to recovery that would take him to the start line of a half marathon six months later and to an Ironman 13 months post-surgery.
“The support from my family was amazing, but it also wasn’t enough on its own,” says Watkins, who set about connecting to a community of cardiac patients attempting athletic challenges.
The result was the founding of the IronHeart Foundation which has provided resources for athletes battling heart disease for well over a decade. During that time, they’ve helped people in over 40 states and 20 countries live heart-healthy, active lives. IronHeart provides a community of challenge and encouragement, as well as matching up athletes with sports cardiologists who will work with them to find safe ways to realize their athletic goals.
In the documentary, “Heart: Flatline to Finish Line,” David Watkins shares the story of six triathletes with cardiac challenges, following them from the hospital through an Ironman race.
In the show, we talk about his story, some common misconceptions of people with heart disease, the process behind creating the documentary, and ways the triathlon community can support athletes with cardiac issues.