It’s Triathlon Tuesday on WGN News at 4.
You may remember that WGN’s Erin Ivory was an avid endurance athlete and loved participating in the Chicago Triathlon each year.
This year, Erin was diagnosed with heart failure and is unable to participate anymore. In her place is WGN’s Mike Lowe.
In 2019, Lowe participated in his first triathlon, and consulted with Erin Ivory for advice. Erin was an ultra-fit and seemingly indestructible endurance athlete.
“I love my job and here I was thinking I was so healthy,” Ivory said.
As Erin and her cardiologist told WGN medical reporter Dina Bair back in May, things were not as perfect as they appeared on the surface.
“Erin’s a great example of how patients can be pretty sick on the inside, but look great on the outside. If you passed Erin on the street, you’d say she’s doing great. In reality, her heart was pretty sick,” Dr. Esther Vorovich of Northwestern Medicine said.
Erin said she had been ignoring little signs for a while, including a sharp pain in her chest that woke her up one night, and a later scare while she was swimming in open water.
“I thought well, that’s just something bizarre, you know things have been busy and we’re not getting a lot of sleep. I think as a woman especially, you always make excuses for what you’re feeling. And whatever this is, this little thing, it’s going to pass. So I did, I ignored it,” Ivory said.
Even though EKG results were showing abnormal signs, she said it was easy to dismiss the results due to her stressful job and demanding life at home, raising four children.
Earlier this year, Ivory suffered a heart attack, leading doctors to find blood clots. Erin was then left at home recovering when she would normally be training.
“Her story, her experiences and her passion to keep pushing that forward is exactly why we’re here, to help spread that ripple and celebrate what she’s accomplished,” Scott Hutmacher of Life Time Chicago said.
Ivory’s story was felt deeply by organizers of the Life Time Chicago Triathlon.
“She’s been a great partner of ours, with Life Time, as well as Dare to Try which is a great non-profit that she’s been supporting physically disabled athletes to come into the same space,” Hutmacher said.
The triathlon is a grueling test of endurance, in which athletes swim in open water, bike on DuSable Lake Shore Drive then run on the lakefront back-to-back-to-back.
It brings nearly 10,000 athletes from all over the world to Chicago for a variety of reasons.
“I think sport is something that keeps you mentally and physically fit,” Jack Toohey of Chicago said.
Since Erin can’t participate, WGN’s Mike Lowe is running in 2021 in her honor and will be training for the next several weeks.
Lowe is raising money for the American Heart Association, the century-old organization founded in Chicago, whose mission is to be a “relentless force for a world of longer, healthier lives.”
“Hearing Erin’s story, I can really relate. I’m a busy mom as well, and we tend to just keep going and ignore those warning signs. We tend to tell ourselves that we’re OK. But we need to know that heart disease can present differently in women, and we need to listen to our bodies and take charge,” AHA executive director Lisa Hinton said.
Hinton said the association has spent nearly $36 million over the last five years in Chicago alone on research that leads to new discoveries and healthier hearts.
“We put that to work in our hospital systems, our community clinics and our communities at large,” Hinton said.
Heart disease remains the leading cause of death worldwide, and the AHA said there are two things everyone can do right now to improve their heart health.
“The most important thing people can do is, there’s two of them, will be to go see their doctor. Eighty percent of heart disease and stroke can be prevented, but preventative medicine is critical to that. Go see your doctor and know your numbers, know your blood pressure number, your cholesterol numbers, that is really important and it is safe to do,” Hinton said.
The second is a simple shot, because heart disease is one of the main risk factors for death from COVID-19.
“The second most important thing you can do is, if you’re eligible, get your COVID-19 vaccine,” Hinton said.
We hope you’ll join us on this journey over the next month, as we honor Erin, promote heart health and raise money for the American Heart Association.
“We’re so thankful to Erin and the WGN team for raising awareness for heart disease in all of us and for raising critical funds to make a difference,” Hinton said.
Mike is participating in the Chicago Triathlon on August 29.
If you’d like to help fight heart disease by contributing to the WGN fundraiser for the AHA, go to www.heart.org/wgn or text ‘WGN’ to 71777.