Born with severe Haemophilia A in 1980, I am the youngest of 3 brothers all with severe A. Being “on demand,” we spent much of our early years having bleeds into various joints, particularly our ankles. In the late ‘80s I started home treatment and prophylaxis. The result was undoubtedly life-changing. Gone were the weekly bleeds and I began to lead a relatively normal life, with the odd break-through bleed.
Sport had played a minor part in my life during my teens and 20s. I played basketball at school and went to the gym. I played a bit of football in my early 20s too. In my early 30s, following my wife’s example having run the London marathon, I decided I would like to do some running. After only 6-8 weeks things came to a grinding halt when I had a serious and sustained bleed in my left ankle. I was rendered unable to walk and took nearly a month off work.
Determined not to be defeated, I started again. More slowly this time. I worked on my weaknesses at the gym and slowly built up my running. I quickly realized that I could not run every day and so the obvious solution to improving my fitness was cross-training. Enter the cycling and swimming. Again, through my wife, I was inspired to try a triathlon. My first experience went well, despite me standing on a river bank at 7am on a Sunday wondering why I wasn't in bed. By the end I was hooked and couldn't wait for my next one. Over the next 4 years I gradually increased the distance and completed 2 half-Ironmans. Craving a greater challenge, I entered Ironman Zurich in 2014. There, I completed a 3.86km (2.4mile) swim, followed by a 180.25km (112 mile) bike and a marathon run - in that order, with no breaks! Since then I have completed 2 more Ironmans and Challenge Roth in Germany – an Iron-distance race in 2018. This one was particularly special as I completed it with a German Haemophiliac with severe A.
In May, I spoke at WFH’s World Congress about my sport. The overwhelming response from the room was positive with lots of questions being asked, but one of the doctors I spoke with was not so enthusiastic. A sign that we have a long way to go, convincing some medical professionals that we don't need to be wrapped in cotton-wool every day. On the last night of the conference, I met a lady with Von Willebrands who was doing her first triathlon in a few weeks, and a Brazilian Haemophiliac spoke to me about a friend of his with severe A who completed Ironman Brazil last year. It seems we are not alone!
The path to completing an Ironman has not been straightforward. It’s taken resilience and determination. I’ve been incredibly well supported by my wife and my physiotherapist. Without the support of my hemophilia team it definitely wouldn’t have been possible. Completing an Ironman is a feat for any human being, let alone someone with a severe medical condition. For those wondering or questioning if they could do something that seems impossible, I'd encourage you to at least try. Take that first step. It doesn't have to be an Ironman. But ask yourself "What's my Ironman?" And then get to work.