A month earlier, Jonathan Duzan had been in great shape. Now, the 30-year-old was struggling to walk down a hallway at Mayo Clinic Hospital’s Saint Marys Campus. He’d just had open heart surgery, and needed oxygen and a walker to shuffle across the floor. The frustratingly slow pace wasn't how Jonathan, a lifelong athlete and special agent with Homeland Security Investigations in St. Paul, Minnesota, was accustomed to moving. But as he walked down that hallway back in March 2011, he found inspiration in a series of photographs of patients who’d had surgeries like his and then went on to great physical achievements after their recoveries.
“It was fun to see those pictures, and motivating,” says Jonathan, who’d come to Mayo for surgery to treat a congenital heart defect called bicuspid aortic valve. Although he’d been born with the condition, it wasn’t diagnosed until a sports physical during his freshman year of high school. His annual cardiology appointments had been uneventful until he turned 30, when testing revealed his aorta was dilated, and he would need surgery. “My cardiologist recommended that I go to Mayo Clinic and see Lyle Joyce,” Jonathan says. He followed his doctor’s orders, and a week later met with cardiac surgeon Lyle Joyce, M.D., Ph.D. A month after that, he was back at Mayo for surgery.
After a week-long recovery, Jonathan returned home and slowly started to regain his strength and stamina. But slow is a relative term. Just four months after surgery, Jonathan completed a duathlon. Triathlons soon followed. And in 2014, he completed an Ironman, which consists of a 2.4 mile swim, 112-mile bike ride and 26.2 mile run.
Recently, Jonathan’s family and friends wanted to “celebrate how far Jonathan had come,” in the five years since his surgery. His fiancé, Danielle Schultz, tells us they decided the best way to do that was by adding his picture to the wall of post-surgery athletes at Mayo Clinic. When the couple got there to deliver the photo collage on Sunday, April 3, Jonathan was surprised by a group of family and friends — around 25 in all — who had showed up to celebrate with him. “There wasn’t a dry eye at Mary Brigh that morning,” Danielle tells us. (We can believe it.)
The collage features two photos of Jonathan. In the first, he’s leaving the water after completing the swim portion of the Ironman, his scar visible on his chest. In the second, he’s crossing the finish line. He hopes the photos will inspire others just as similar photos had inspired him. “I hope I would be a motivator to others, to encourage people not to be a victim of their circumstances,” he says. The collage also recognizes “with profound gratitude” the staff members “caring for others at Mary Brigh.” Danielle says she’s grateful to them as well. Jonathan “has the kindest heart,” she tells us, “and now it’s also a healthy heart, thanks to Mayo.”
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