• By Dana Sparks

Sharing Mayo Clinic: Heart surgery keeps Trip Hedrick swimming strong

February 23, 2020

After a 20-year history of heart disease that's included a heart attack and stent placements to clear blocked arteries, coronary bypass surgery at Mayo Clinic has helped Trip Hedrick continue pursuing his competitive swimming goals.

Looking at him and knowing his competitive swimming background, Clay "Trip" Hedrick seems to be about as far removed from the risk of heart disease as one can get. But the heart attackstent procedures and coronary bypass surgery Trip has endured since 2000 are stark reminders that a healthy, strong body isn't always enough to overcome some serious cardiac problems.

A dedicated swimmer and former Iowa State University head men's swimming coach, Trip's heart attack came when he was just 46, while he was in the pool. "I was swimming by myself one day and was hit by a jolt of chest pain and radiating arm pain," he says. "I stopped and hung on to the side of the pool for a while, thinking, 'This is really weird.'"

So weird, and so contradictory to the peak physical condition in which he kept his body, Trip attributed the pain to a misstep in the weight room. "I dismissed it," he says. "I lifted weights a lot, so I thought maybe it was just pectoral and triceps pain."

Back in the water two days later, the pain returned. "I decided then that I needed a stress test, so I called my doctor," Trip says. "I had it done the next day and passed with flying colors, but continued to have problems."

Those problems eventually led Trip to drive himself to his local emergency department where an EKG revealed the true cause and seriousness of his chest pain. "They took me into the critical care unit and said: 'You've had a heart attack. You have heart disease,'" he says. "I then had a stent placed because I had a 99% blockage of my left anterior descending artery — a widow-maker."

Read the rest of Trip's story.

This article originally appeared on the Sharing Mayo Clinic blog.

Watch: Swimmer still setting records despite heart disease.

Journalists: Broadcast-quality video (4:05) is in the downloads at the end of this post. Please "Courtesy: Mayo Clinic News Network." Read the script.