Enjoying A Second Chance At Life

Rich Cline | Nathalie Walker photo

Forty-year-old Rich Cline believes he’s been given a second chance at life. Two months after finishing his first half Ironman in Hawaii last June, he was biking to work when he started to feel extremely dizzy, nauseous and had a splitting headache. He decided to go to the ER, where he discovered he had a tumor in his heart and needed to undergo open heart surgery the very next day.

“While in the ER, I began to experience chest pain and the physician ordered an EKG because of this new symptom,” recalls Cline.

Four EKG tests were done with the last one showing symptoms of an acute heart attack. From there, a cardiac catheter lab revealed scattered blood clots in three coronary vessels of his heart, and after many more tests, they found the tumor – 7 cm in length and about 4 cm in diameter – in his heart.

“(This experience) completely changed my whole outlook on things,” says Cline, who with wife Audrey has a 12-year-old daughter, Chelsea. “I think I’ve always been a pretty positive person, but now it’s kind of made it a little bit less about me and more about trying to help people.

“The doctor’s response to me before the surgery and even after the surgery was, ‘You’re extremely lucky to be alive. If you weren’t in excellent cardiovascular shape, then that tumor would’ve killed you.’

“I got a second chance at life for a reason, and it’s not for selfish reasons. If I can motivate just a couple of folks to eat a little better or get out and exercise or go to the doctor and get a heart screening or enjoy life a little more – that’s my goal now, to inspire others to do any of those things.”

Cline, a logistics manager for Hawaii Air National Guard, who will be flying again as a full-time pilot for Aloha Air Cargo next month (he previously was a pilot for Aloha Airlines), trains 12 to 15 hours a week (going about 100 miles on the bike, 7,000 to 8,000 meters of swimming and 35 miles of running).

He’s competing in his first full Ironman race at the Ironman Couer d’Alene June 23 in Idaho. But his ultimate goal is to participate in the 2013 Ironman World Championship in Kona. With some help from the public, he just may. He’s entered a 90-second video that highlights his story in the Kona Inspired contest, which invites people to share how they live the Ironman mantra ‘Anything is Possible’ and awards winners with a 2013 Ironman World Championship triathlon entry.

Part of the judging is based on public interest. Check out Cline’s video at https://bit.ly/11fxycj or for more information visit konainspired.com.