Whitson shares inspiration

Published 9:01 pm Monday, February 21, 2011

Troy Mayor Jimmy Lunsford, Bob Whitson and Annette Toney spoke at the Red Cap Survivors Breakfast held Feb. 12 at First Baptist Church.

Yesterday is the past, tomorrow is the future and today is a gift, which is why it is called the “present.”

Bob Whitson, a 67-year-old Troy resident, has treasured his gift ever since he had open-heart surgery in early May 2009.

Whitson, not letting a hiccup like open-heart surgery slow him down, took it upon himself to hang on to that adventurous spirit with which he is so familiar and do something even his children questioned him about: bicycle across Europe.

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Whitson spoke about his adventure Feb. 12 at the Red Cap Survivors Breakfast, which honors the survivors of heart attack and stroke.

“I learned a lot about my heart and a lot about myself,” Whitson said.

Whitson said that after experiencing severe symptoms of shortness of breath while exercising, it was recommended that he go see a heart specialist.

“I had two arteries that were blocked; one almost completely and the other only partially,” Whitson said. “So they did a double bypass and the doctors told me that the only reason why I was able to survive was because I had always tried to exercise and stay healthy.”

To Whitson, the surgery was only a minor set back.

Whitson said he got the idea about bicycling through Europe from a bicycle magazine he was reading while he was in the hospital waiting for the surgery.

“I read it, looked at all the ads and looked at everything in it and that idea would just not go out of my head,” Whitson said. “I was going to get on my bicycle and do something bigger than just ride around Troy.”

Whitson, staying true to his adventurous endeavors, bicycled 750 miles starting in Stuttgart, Germany, all the way to Vienna.

“I wasn’t on a race,” Whitson said. “I was just trying to have an adventure.”

The trip has fueled Whitson’s adventurous spirit.

“This was an absolutely wonderful adventure to go on by myself, just me and my heart,” Whitson said. “I love traveling and plan on going to Holland to ride through the tulips.”

Mayor Jimmy Lunsford attended Saturday morning’s breakfast as a survivor, having had open-heart surgery a year ago in February 2010.

Inspired by his friend’s travels and adventures, Lunsford shared what he thought Whitson’s message was truly about.

“The main thing people need to remember is to be cognizant that you have heart trouble and be careful of what you do, but at the same time lead a normal life,” Lunsford said.

Lunsford said you just have to live life as if nothing had happened to you and that not letting life pass you by is one of the ingredients for staying young.

Annette Toney, Heart Board chairman, appreciated the fact that Whitson could share his adventure.

“Shortly after I joined Heart Board my husband had to have stents put in and my Dad had a stroke, so it’s inspirational to me to hear that someone say that they have experienced the problems of heart disease, but they’re not letting it handicap them,” Toney said. “It’s just wonderful for him to be able to get out and do the things that he enjoys.”

Toney pointed out that if you are a survivor of heart disease and stroke, then you can still get out and do the things that you enjoy, but you still needed to stick to dietary restrictions and any other thing the doctor may prescribe for you.