For Matthew Fleming, the Ride for Heart is personal.
And the 16-year-old Upper Beach resident managed to cycle the 25-kilometre Becel Heart & Stroke Ride for Heart on June 5 only weeks after having heart surgery.
“Two weeks ago I had my fourth surgery,” he said in the days leading up to the ride. “About six years ago I had my last open-heart (surgery), but two weeks ago I had a catheterization to replace the valve that I have in my heart that’s wonky.”
Fleming was born with a closed heart valve and underwent his first surgery when he was only 11 days old. He underwent another one when he was two-and-a-half and his third at age 10.
However, the operation he had in May marked the first time that the procedure was not open-heart surgery. Instead, the catheterization was done by going through an artery in his leg and up to his heart — something he said wasn’t possible the last time he had surgery.
This is also the third straight year that Fleming has been a spokesman for the event.
“It’s important to me because I want to show other kids that have to go through this that it’s really not too bad,” he said.
It’s the work of charities such as the Heart and Stroke Foundation that has inspired him to pass the message to others.
“I think it’s a great charity and it benefits a lot of people,” he said, citing his own experience. “I didn’t have to have open-heart this time, so in the past six years (technology has) improved that much.”
This year Fleming’s team raised more than $2,600 for the ride, with Fleming himself raising about $1,100 of that.
It was the participation of his father, who is now one of his team members, that he got involved in the first place.
“My dad was signed up to do the ride five years ago, when his office had a team, and I decided I wanted to do it with him,” Fleming said. “We had so much fun that we got my mom and my sister involved in it and we did it again.”
And they won’t be stopping anytime soon, either. “It’s a tradition,” he said. “I’ll probably continue to do it.”
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