Hields relishing strong heart | VailDaily.com

Hields relishing strong heart

Ian Cropp
Vail, CO Colorado
Special to the DailyEagle-Vail's Margo Hields heads down the slalom course during last month's Winter World Transplant Games in Finland. Hields won bronze in the slalom for her division.

When she was growing up, Margo Hields never had the opportunity to participate in sports.

Hields, 46, was born with a heart defect and dealt with her single-ventricle problem until 1992.

“They put in a pacemaker in December, but that threw me for a loop, … and things started to shut down,” Hields said.

But thanks to a donor, “Tasha,” Hields received a new heart, which brought with it the potential to compete in athletics. First, though, Hields had to battle with the new organ.

“It was a roller coaster,” Hields said. “There were ups and downs, and some rejections that put me back in the hospital; infections that led to rejections.

“Every year was better than the last, and now I get stronger every year and push myself a little more.”

With medals from both the Winter World Transplant Games and the U.S. Summer Transplant Games as proof, Hields is a lot stronger. Late last month, Hields traveled to Finland to participate in the 2008 Winter World Transplant Games and came home with a bronze in slalom and took fourth in the giant slalom, one-tenth of a second out of third.

Hields, who had participated in the U.S. Summer Transplant Games in 2002, decided to head to Finland on a bit of a whim.

“I knew about the (games), but it was kind of a fluke,” Hields said. “My husband (Paul) manufactures a product (that transports skis), and the captain of the team called and asked to buy some.”

When Paul found out the team was for the transplant games, he gave all its members free tubes to carry their skis and mentioned that his wife had received a heart transplant.

“The captain said, ‘She can be on the team,'” Hields said.

With her skiing experience more on the recreational side, Hields sought out help for a crash course in gates.

“Masters Coach Joey Roberts has been really instrumental in improving my skiing the last few years. She put together a three-day race clinic for me at the end of last year and earlier this year in March,” said Hields, who wore Roberts’ speed suit in the competition. “The other person who really helped me was Bill, who works at Vail’s NASTAR course every Saturday. He spent a lot of time talking to me about my starts and how to improve them.”

Even with her practice, Hields had never competed in an actual event.

“I was so nervous. I was a wreck on the slalom,” she said. “On the giant slalom, I wasn’t sure either, … but I missed the bronze by just a hair. But the event is really about donor awareness.”

Along with Hields, another local, Jerry Olson, participated in Finland. Olson is still in Europe and will be back in town early in May. For Hields, being around fellow survivors was a big part of the experience.

“There was a man on our team who had a kidney transplant, and his wife was the donor and (was) there. It’s hard to explain. … Everyone there is a survivor and so thankful that they are doing it. They are all active and make sure they can do everything they can to get the word out.”

Hields, who swam with Team Rocky Mountain in the 2002 U.S. Summer Transplant Games and won several silver and bronze medals, has used athletics to keep her new heart in shape.

“If I commit, I tend to stick to a workout schedule better,” she said. “I know I can get out of my safety zone and comfort zone and challenge myself, and that’s huge.”

Hields knows she can’t follow some of the athletes living in Eagle County stride-for-stride, but she’s fine with that.

“I’m a different level than anyone else, but I can still be a part of it,” she said. “It’s taken me a long time to find my muscles and lung capacity. … I have to be competitive with myself. I may not catch other people, but I always joke that I’ll be the most improved.”

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