Racing to the challenge

While many ophthalmologists look forward to spending their "after-hours" time relaxing, Henry Jampel, MD, MHS, professor of ophthalmology at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, chooses to train for the most difficult endurance challenge: Ironman competition. He continues to do so after experiencing sudden cardiac arrest in 2000.

Dr. Jampel has been an athlete his whole life.

"I ran cross-country and track in high school and competed casually in college and medical school," he said.

"Participating in competitions provides motivation to train," he said.

Dr. Jampel completed his first Ironman Triathlon in 1999 in Kona, HI. The competition includes a 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike, and 26.2-mile marathon.

"The Ironman competition represents the pinnacle of the sport," Dr. Jampel said. "You can't just go out and do it. It requires training and focus. There's the risk of injury. When you put it all together and compete, it's very satisfying."

"Dr. Gills served as a role model and personally encouraged me in my quest," he said.

Dr. Jampel added 20 hours of training a week to his already busy schedule to prepare for the Ironman Triathlon. He completed the race in 11 hours, 44 minutes and 58 seconds, finishing 960 out of about 1,500 entrants.

A life-changing event

The following year, in May 2000, without warning, Dr. Jampel had a cardiac arrest after a morning swimming workout. His workout partners that morning were physicians who administered CPR to Dr. Jampel while waiting for paramedics to arrive with a defibrillator. Dr. Jampel got a shock 27 minutes after he collapsed. Miraculously, he survived.

Dr. Jampel admits that he thought about competing again almost immediately.

"It was important to me, but if my doctors had said that I couldn't do it-and if my wife had said no-then I would have listened," he said. "But everyone was supportive."

He credits his family (wife, Risa, and children Joseph, Catherine, and Sarah) for their support and encouragement. He also said, "I was lucky to find doctors who helped me get back in shape."

"Finishing that race definitely meant a lot to me. My wife and kids were at the finish line and that was critical," he said. He ran with Dave Brown, MD, one of the physicians who had given him CPR that day.

Ironman again

Dr. Jampel participated in his second Ironman race in July 2004, in Lake Placid, NY. His wife and son were there to root for him.

"I did the second Ironman in part to prove I could," he said.