Open-Water Swimming Champ Copes With A Broken Heart
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That is what we will discuss our to the point coming up at 1 PM. Extraordinary ability sometimes comes with unique challenges. That is when the experience of Lynne Cox . She is documented amazing almost superhuman abilities to tolerate cold and get her sensitivity to personal tragedy resulted in a little-known condition called broken heart syndrome. My guest has written about her ability to survive extremes and tragedy in her book, swimming in the sink. Welcome to the program. This begin with this amazing ability that you have exhibited to withstand cold. You swam the Bering Strait and Antarctica. How much longer are you able to survive and function in those waters [ Indiscernible- Participant too far away from microphone ] probably hours. But I have trained for it for many years. When I swam the Bering Strait I swam for six minutes. I did a swim off of Greenland and 20 I did a swim off of Greenland and 2006. What has, the studies ? A lot of the basic medical research that they did allow people to figure out how to cool people down after heart attacks or spinal cord injuries. Recently I was talking to a filmmaker who told me that his son had epilepsy. At the first time he has symptoms of it, he was having seizures they took him to the hospital and the first thing they did was cool him down. The research that they have done on me, they were able to figure out how a body is cool down and how to be warm it up effectively. And they also realized that the cooling down can help reduce the swelling the pressure of the spinal cord. And in the situation of a heart attack it can do less damage. This is from the research that they did on me at the University of London. And then there were different scientists who study that in with further than the research studies that were done on me. How did you get into cold water swimming ? My parents started my older brother and younger sisters swimming in a pond in Maine. It was just like being a home. It was so much fun to swim in the clear water. They would join though why and swam competitively. My parents saw that I had this ability to swim long distances. And so we moved to California to train with the Olympic coach. He recognized that I had this endurance that was amazing. He suggested that I swim in the ocean. I want to get to the second half of what I want to speak to you about. And that is broken heart syndrome. A condition that you have had an art popularizing. People here broken heart syndrome and they may think this is a psychological condition. This is a really bad medical condition. It can be caused by emotional stress or because of huge psychological stress or physical stress. It can be because -- recently Harvard University did a paper in April 2016 about the symptoms of it and causes and they said that you can also have a happy situation where a grandmother has a grandchild or a surprise party and the stress of that can cause broken heart syndrome. It is all stress-related. What triggered your incident a broken heart syndrome ? I think it was because I had lost my mother and my father. And my dog. Then I was losing my home because I had to move out of the neighborhood. Because the family was wanting to divide it up. And I lost the neighborhood where I had grown up. It was this huge -- realizing that things that were important in my life are going away present this huge amount of stress people would say, you have a heart attack. How is broken heart syndrome, how is it different ? That is a great question. The symptoms from broken heart syndrome are very much like a heart attack. You can have shortness of breath and chest pain. It's not until you go Winnick it checked out by a physician, if they are the ones who determine what is going on. With broken heart syndrome was great about it is, you can recover from it holy. And I was fortunate because I had to position friends one who had come on my swim and Antarctica who recognized that I had broken heart syndrome. And she thought through a whole process of the medication that my cardiologist gave me the changing my way of being help me to recover. That is part of what you write about in this book and part of what you discuss with talking about the book, trying to destress your life so that you're not at risk for this. I have a friend who had posttraumatic stress disorder. And he was telling me that he read the book and that he set the process that you went through was very similar to what I went through to recover but, he said, we did not include the part about love and how much that makes a difference in recovery. Lynne Cox will be speaking about her book tonight at the Carlsbad library at 7 PM and tomorrow at 10 AM at the lifelong learning Institute. Thank you so much. Thank you Maureen. Be sure to watch KPBS evening edition at 5 PM and at 6:30 PM. And join us again tomorrow for midday edition at noon. I am Maureen Cavanaugh, thank you for listening.
Sept. 12, 7 p.m.: Carlsbad City Library
Sept. 13, 10 a.m.: SDSU's Osher Lifelong Learning Institute
Lynne Cox is a champion open-water and cold-water swimmer, crossing the Catalina Channel as a teen in less than 13 hours and swimming across the Bering Strait in frigid temperatures in the final years of the Cold War. Her ability to brave freezing water has even attracted the attention of medical researchers, who are studying why her core body temperature rises in cold water instead of falls.
But in 2012, Cox thought she might not be able to swim again. Feeling out of breath and weak, she was diagnosed with "broken heart syndrome," also called stress-induced cardiomyopathy. The stress from a quick succession of tragedies, including the deaths of both of her parents, caused her heart to swell and not pump blood properly, according to her doctors.
"It is possible the stress of the swims contributed to this," Cox said. "But I really think it’s a sudden onslaught that sets this off. That day I thought: my mom had died, my dad had died, my dog had died, and I had to move out of the neighborhood I had basically lived in all of my life. What I realized was everything in my life was gone."
Cox has written about her disease and recovery in a new memoir, "Swimming in the Sink: An Episode of the Heart." She joins Midday Edition on Monday to discuss how she de-stressed her life and what researchers may learn from her uncommon abilities.