Sunday 5th April 2020
Roger Black was diagnosed with an unidentified murmur whilst at school. Now, after a career which saw him win Silver Medals at the Olympics and Gold medals at The World Championships, Roger is beginning to think more about his heart valve disease story.
“The doctor heard a murmur during a routine health check at school when I was eleven. They referred me for more tests which showed that I had aortic valve disease.”
“Instinctively, I was confused and worried. I didn’t know what aortic valve disease was and wasn’t sure how it would affect my future hopes and dreams. Initially, I was advised not to do any competitive sport at school but that soon became unrealistic and the medical professionals did everything they could to put my mind at ease, and told me that I could lead a normal life - just with regular check-ups.”
“Throughout everything I achieved during my athletics career heart valve disease was always there with me. Not just the yearly echo, but it was fuel to work harder and achieve all that I could. That scared eleven-year-old boy was a great inspiration to the man that competed in the Olympics.”
“I’m 53 now, and even now there’s a tiny piece of that eleven-year-old boy when I go to the valve clinic for my echo. The results are always fine, but that feeling is always there. These days I have two yearly echos, and I have a great relationship with the wonderful people at my valve clinic - who I have total confidence in. ”
“I may not be running at the Olympics anymore but my wife Jules and I run for 30 minutes every day at a steady pace. I’m sometimes mindful that I might be modifying behaviours to hide symptoms, so Jules and I use this regular exercise as a way of keeping our eye on things.
I’m a huge advocate of regular moderate exercise as people get older. Not only does it get you out and keep you active and healthy, but regular exercise is the best way to monitor subtle changes in your health. You don’t have to push it, but just get out and keep active and you’ll feel and see the benefits.
As the years go by I know my time to have treatment will come. Having lived with this for 42 years I’m more than prepared for it mentally, and seeing the advancements in treatment over the years fills me with even more confidence. We are lucky enough to have access to some of the most cutting edge treatment options in the world, and organisations like Heart Valve Voice are going to ensure that me, and many others, receive the best treatment available.”
My mother in law had treatment for valve disease ten years ago, and she became very unwell before she was treated. However, she made a full recovery and the entire family were amazed at what treatment can do to bring back that quality of life. So I can only imagine what technological advancements are delivering now for valve disease patients.
Ultimately, It doesn’t matter if you’re 11, 53 or 83, being diagnosed with heart disease will always be scary. What matters is how you prepare and how you react. I’ve always prepared myself physically and mentally so that I can react to every challenge I face in the right way. With the support of my family, my valve disease clinic and organisations like Heart Valve Voice, I know I am prepared for my treatment when it comes and the rest of my valve disease story.
That heart valve disease story is my story. It’s the scared 11-year-old boy, the man on the podium in Atlanta and the husband running with his wonderful wife every day now and I will face the future challenges it presents with the vigour I have faced all the others in my life and career.
I thank Heart Valve Voice for letting me share my valve disease story, and very much look forward to working with them on upcoming projects that will improve the lives of valve disease patients.”
Heart Valve Voice thanks Roger for his inspiring story of what hard work and determination can do, even in the face of great challenges.