Richard Hess: A Story of Determination

Richard Hess: A Story of Determination

Richard Hess  - Loveland PassHere’s my story it’s a bit involved. I rode my first Triple Bypass in 92 or 93 and I rode the triple approximately 6 times up till 2001. 2001 was my last ride. After that I became increasingly sick and was eventually diagnosed with severe adult onset bronchial asthma. We’re talking the kind of asthma attacks that kill people. My attacks would put me on the floor, gasping for every breath. I was being suffocated during the attacks. My only relief was massive doses of steroids that would stop the attack in progress. This period of time was marked by several pneumonia infections every year. And with every pneumonia infection I lost more lung tissue to scarring from each infection.

By the time I was put in the care of the pulmonologists I had lost 1/4 of my lung capacity. My weight had ballooned from 152lbs up to 189lbs mainly because of the steroid use. I had given up cycling, thrown away all my cycling mags, and went by my favorite shop, Vecchio’s, and said my good byes. I figured I was one or two pneumonia infections from punching out. Things took a serious turn for the worse when I had a blood vessel break in my gut which was due to all the steroid use. Steroids make blood vessels fragile and subject to breakage. I lost 3 units of blood and collapsed in the Boulder Community Hospital ER. My blood was splashed everywhere in the ER.  Every vein had collapsed but they were finally able to run a transfusion line into me. After getting out of the BCH/ICU I began a final quest to try to get to the bottom of why I had suddenly come down with adult onset severe bronchial asthma as well as suffering through all the bouts of pneumonia.

So I shopped my symptoms and medical history to a new set of docs and I finally hit pay dirt. One doc, Bill Blanchet, made the correct diagnosis of an aspergillum fungus growing in my lungs. And the kicker to the fungal infection was that I was violently allergic to the fungus which explains the severe bronchial asthma attacks. Through a very long treatment with anti-fungals I was finally able to get some control. The asthma attacks had stopped but there was no going back to health. My right lung was damaged beyond recovery. The docs put me on an allergy shot program to stop my reactivity to the fungus in my lungs. But my lost lung capacity was never coming back.

Richard Hess - Mt. Evans 21014Nevertheless I began riding the bike in 2008 dreaming of riding the Triple. My weight had gone up to 193 but I still dreamt of doing the Triple again.  2009 came and went with me getting use to the rigors of the ride. In 2010 I finally got in enough miles and enough varied terrain where I began to entertain thoughts of training for the Triple. In 2012 I sat down and signed up for the Triple. My wife thought I was absolutely insane, but I would not be dissuaded. So I brushed off the dust off from my old training plans and committed myself to the bike beginning the week after Christmas. I counted calories and followed an abbreviated version of an old “Anna Schwartz” training plan. I reconnected with my old coach now Dr. Anna Schwartz who provided much needed support and encouragement. I did the Elephant Rock but was only able to complete the metric century.

Nevertheless the morning of the 2012 Triple found me in Bergen Park at 5:30 heading up Squaw Pass. I was now at 162 lbs. And wonder of wonders I completed the ride despite all the rain and cold on Loveland Pass. I made it to the top of Vail Pass and I was literally unable to talk from near exhaustion, but I was able to make it down into Avon. I had made it despite losing 25% of my lung capacity. I had made it despite my lung disease. I had made it despite nearly bleeding out in the BCH ER. Since then I have ridden the Triple in 2013, and 2014. This year I’m going to attempt the Double. I have trained and trained. My fungal infection is still there and I’m on a new regimen of anti-fungals. Some days I don’t feel at all very well, and I still have breathing difficulties from the fungus mucking with my lung function. I don’t know what the future holds. My Doc  has told me that he has never encountered or heard of a patient with my condition called “allergic bronchopulmonary aspergillosis” who has been able to do what I have done.  At times I have even been able to improve my lung function which is unheard of with my condition. I am hopeful that I may still be able to beat this thing..

But for me the “Triple Bypass” has given me life and purpose, inspiration and motivation to get on the bike and ride despite everything. Without the Triple I don’t know if I would still be amongst the living. I love the Triple and I am very grateful for all the fine people who make it possible every year. This will be my 11th Triple Bypass Bicycle Challenge.

Thank you
Rick Hess
Niwot, Colorado

Please note:  Rick will be riding the Triple Bypass on July 11 & 12 and the Bob Cook Memorial Mt. Evans Hill Climb on July 25th.   Against all odds!

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