Com­pet­ing for the heart

THIS body­builder has al­ready had four open-heart surg­eries and a pace­maker fit­ted.

People (South Africa) - - Contents -

BBIKINI com­peti­tor Kristin Re­nae Hayza, 28, was di­ag­nosed with a heart de­fect at just six months old as doc­tors warned she only had weeks to live. At 10 days old, Kristin’s par­ents took her to the hospi­tal as they’d no­ticed that she stopped breath­ing while nurs­ing. Doc­tors re­mained calm and said noth­ing was wrong with her and that she was just a fussy baby. Kristin was born with a sin­gle ven­tri­cle de­fect, dex­tro­car­dia, atrial sep­tal de­fect, pul­monary steno­sis, ven­tric­u­lar sep­tal de­fect and tri­cus­pid atre­sia and trans­po­si­tion of the great ar­ter­ies. Through­out her life, she has had four open­heart surg­eries, from six months old, three and five years old then fi­nally at 27 years old. Dur­ing her fi­nal heart surgery in 2017, Kristin had a pace­maker fit­ted af­ter go­ing into com­plete heart block, mean­ing her heart was beat­ing too slowly.

De­spite en­dur­ing pain for weeks fol­low­ing her most re­cent open-heart surgery, Kristin has worked on re­build­ing her strength as she works out six days a week, and even en­tered her first body­build­ing com­pe­ti­tion just two months af­ter the op­er­a­tion.

“I was di­ag­nosed with my heart de­fects at six months old in 1990,” ex­plains Kristin. “The sur­geon told my par­ents that I was just weeks away from suf­fo­cat­ing in my sleep. My par­ents were in to­tal shock at the di­ag­no­sis be­cause they had taken me to the hospi­tal at 10 days old when I stopped breath­ing and doc­tors said I was fine. I’ve had four open heart surg­eries so far. At six months I had the Blalock-T shunt op­er­a­tion, at three I had a Glenn surgery, aged five I had the Fon­tan surgery and last year I had a sub-aor­tic re­sec­tion. I’ve also had many heart catheters put in.”

Kristin adds, “I don’t re­mem­ber the re­cov­ery for my first three op­er­a­tions as I was so young, but the fourth was hor­rific to be hon­est. The pain and the frus­tra­tion that went with the re­cov­ery was aw­ful. I had a pace­maker put in dur­ing my fourth heart surgery af­ter go­ing into com­plete heart block. I was so dis­ap­pointed about need­ing one and I re­ally strug­gled with it for months. Trust­ing my pace­maker has been the hard­est thing for me as I’d taken heart med­i­ca­tion my whole life un­til af­ter that surgery, so to abruptly stop tak­ing med­i­ca­tion was dif­fi­cult men­tally, and then I had to trust the de­vice on top of that.” She con­tin­ues, “I’ve been ill my en­tire life. I’ve had great years and tough years when it came to my health. I’ve had doc­tors’ ap­point­ments, test af­ter test and lim­ited my­self out of fear of some­thing bad hap­pen­ing. I was told not to do sports or any­thing that would raise my heart rate too much, so I didn’t do a whole lot of stren­u­ous ac­tiv­i­ties grow­ing up. When I got a new car­di­ol­o­gist in 2013, he told me to make my own lim­its be­cause I know my body bet­ter than any­one else, so I started push­ing my­self more. I never thought I’d be where I am now. I’m the health­i­est I’ve ever been, and I can keep up with peo­ple at the gym. My life’s been non-stop health is­sues – if it wasn’t my heart it was my blood platelet is­sues, or if not that it was my col­i­tis. I feel like I never truly had a break from ap­point­ments and tests. Now though, I am in such good shape phys­i­cally and men­tally, and I hope to push the bound­aries a lit­tle more.

“For most of my life I had strug­gled with de­pres­sion and anx­i­ety at­tacks due to be­ing ill and not know­ing what would hap­pen in the fu­ture. It put a huge men­tal, phys­i­cal and emo­tional toll on me. I did some re­search and found that work­ing out can help with men­tal health, so in 2014 I de­cided to give it a try. As I got more in­volved in fit­ness and started to achieve more, it be­gan to be more of an ob­ses­sion. I de­cided about a month af­ter my fourth heart surgery that I was go­ing to en­ter in a com­pe­ti­tion and I prepped for 36 weeks af­ter. It was ex­tremely hard and chal­leng­ing but I’m so glad I did it de­spite want­ing to give up at points. I can lift heavy for a per­son who has had her chest cracked open mul­ti­ple times. It de­pends how I’m feel­ing each day, but chest days are tough. I still have a lot of pain from the most re­cent heart surgery, so

I do light weights on chest day. With the help of my pro body­builder brother, Jake, I did a per­sonal best by dead­lift­ing 56kg just six months af­ter heart surgery. I work out six days a week do­ing train­ing and car­dio, then one rest day. My train­ing is usu­ally an hour long and I do about half an hour of high in­ten­sity in­ter­val train­ing (HIIT) ev­ery day.”

Kristin has made a re­mark­able re­cov­ery af­ter hav­ing so many heart surg­eries and be­ing warned not to over­work her­self, to then take part in a bikini fit­ness com­pe­ti­tion only a year later. By shar­ing her story, Kristin hopes to in­spire oth­ers who have been di­ag­nosed with con­gen­i­tal heart dis­ease and who spend their en­tire life feel­ing re­stricted.

She says, “The past will al­ways af­fect my train­ing. If I’m hav­ing a bad day then I have to take things slower or lighter. Some days I can barely walk on the treadmill without hav­ing to take breaks, but for the most part I do well. I’m al­ways go­ing to have a bit of a set­back be­cause of what I’ve been through and liv­ing with only half a heart, but I do what I can. Hav­ing a pace­maker does have an im­pact be­cause I can feel it when I do abs, dead­lifts and while run­ning. It’s such an aw­ful feel­ing and I ab­so­lutely hate it. I’ve even spo­ken with my car­di­ol­o­gist about hav­ing it moved to an­other part of my body, which we’re still dis­cussing now. I’m hop­ing to ad­just to hav­ing it and learn­ing to feel more com­fort­able with it.”

Kristin at her first bikini com­pe­ti­tion in Septem­ber 2018

Kristin shows her scar from her fourthheart op­er­a­tion, donein 2017

At 28 years old, Kristin al­ready had four open-heart surg­eries

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