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Competitive cyclist credits CPR for saving his life

January 23, 2011|By TIFFANY ARNOLD | tiffanya@herald-mail.com
  • Brian Fouche, a competitive cyclist, during a race. He credits a fellow cyclist and his knowledge of CPR for saving his life.
By Kevin Dillard

Competitive cyclist Brian Fouche has spent more than a decade racing toward finish lines.

But two months ago, Fouche found himself racing toward death.

"My heart just stopped," Fouche said.

Fouche, 28, of Hagerstown, went into cardiac arrest during a Nov. 20 cyclocross race in Howard County, Md.

The experience has inspired Fouche to start a blog — "Heart Disease, Racing and All That Other Stuff" at Bafouche.blogspot.com.

He's also regained the courage to get back on the bike.

"At one point I thought I wasn't going to be able to ride again," said Fouche, who had a defibrillator implanted in his chest. "To be out there riding again, it was really emotional."

Fouche said his memories about specific details were fuzzy.

He said he was told that a fellow cyclist  — who was also a physician — found him on the ground motionless and started performing CPR. "I was really lucky that he was there," Fouche said, who said he was told that two other people joined to help the doctor.

Paramedics arrived and transported Fouche to the hospital, said Jackie Cutler, spokeswoman for the Howard County Department of Fire & Rescue. Fouche said he spent three days at Howard County General Hospital and another three days at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore.

Fouche was released just before Thanksgiving Day.

He said doctors still aren't sure why he went into cardiac arrest, but he has since been told they couldn't detect major problems with his heart or any anomaly.

Fouche is a single, athletic twentysomething and former high school soccer player with no known health issues. He picked up cycling 11 years ago as a way to stay in shape and began cycling competitively eight years ago, racing with the local Antietam Velo Club and, more recently, with Annapolis Bicycle Racing Team. He is also enters in cyclocross races, an iteration of mountain biking, where riders compete in fast races over varied terrain.

His training is rigorous, calling for as many as 20 hours of riding a week. He competes in 25 to 30 cyclocross races a year.

Fouche said he thought he was in good shape; going into cardiac arrest was the furthest thing from his mind.

"I'm glad to be alive," Fouche said. "This makes me realize that you can just go at any moment. But you have to move each day pushing forward, live each day, keep going."

So on Wednesday, Dec. 15, weeks after he was released from the hospital, Fouche decided it was time to get back on his bike.

"My body and mind all of a sudden just said, "it's time to get on the bike,'" Fouche wrote in a December blog post. "I listened and headed out for the best 1-hour ride of my life."

Fouche said he decided to ride to River City Cycles in Williamsport and back to his home in Hagerstown, during a phone interview with The Herald-Mail.

"I think I cried on that ride," Fouche said. "I couldn't believe it."

Fouche said after the first ride, getting back into his old habit was easy. He said he's up to 15 hours of riding a week and is preparing the Tour of the Bahamas, a two-day bike race that starts Saturday, Jan. 29, in Nassau.

He said he plans to keep blogging about biking, and heart disease — hopefully raising more awareness about his experience and finding other athletes who've had similar experiences.

In between the blogging, training and competing, Fouche said there is still one more change he'd like to make in the future.

"I don't know CPR," Fouche said. "That's something I want and need to do. I think it's really important. That's something I plan to do in the next few months."

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