From heart patient to plant-based ultra athlete - meet Jesper Outzen
Am I going to die? A question that Jesper Outzen was unwillingly confronted with back in 2017, when he was hit by a large blood clot in his heart - only a short time after becoming a father for the second time.
Jesper was only 41 at that time and the doctors had no clues as to why this had happened. Nevertheless, Jesper was now about to face life as a chronic heart patient.
“It was time for a major life change”
Read our interview with Jesper, where he tells us more about the incident, how his life has changed since then, and why running now is such an important part of a very different everyday life.
“It may sound strange or controversial, but the blood clot has been one of the best life experiences”
What happened on the day, where you were hit by the blood clot?
I wake up on the 10th of August 2017. The time is 7.43am. Another beautiful day of sunshine awaits with an exciting meeting in town.
Suddenly I notice something pushing behind my sternum. It’s a sensation I’ve never experienced before. I wonder what it could be. It feels like something’s stuck. I try all sorts of different stretching hoping the pain will go away. Nothing happens. My wife drives our eldest son Erik to kindergarten and brings our youngest son, Karl.
I go back up to bed without any idea what to do. But I’m thinking Google might be my friend this time. I Google chest pains and end up at some website. I shimmer the first section and scrolls to a list stating:
Are you experiencing?
- Pains in the left arm or both arms?
- Are the pains going into your jaw?
- Are you dizzy?
- Are you experiencing cold sweats?
- Pain in your chest?
I was able to answer yes to all the above. The conclusion was most likely that I had been hit by a blood clod to the heart. Here you would think that I panicked. But I didn’t. On the contrary I got curious and kept on reading. I found a line that stood out to me: “1 of 4 men die with a blood clot in the heart before they get signed into a hospital”. Again, would you think I panicked, but still no. I went downstairs and waited for my wife.
When she returned, she asked “so, what did you find out?” … “uhhm, I think I have a blood clot in my heart”. She seemed surprisingly cool, and I asked her to call our doctor Anders. Luckily, she got through to the doctor straight away and talked about the symptoms I had just told her about. She kindly asked if we should drop by. Anders, the doctor, raised his voice and said “No! I’m calling you an ambulance straight away. That’s the procedure”. At that point I realized how serious this is. I was driven to Odense Hospital in an ambulance with blue lights and loud sirens.At Odense University Hospital I was put through several different checkups that finally concluded I had been hit by a large blood clot in the heart on the backside of the left heartbeat. Why this had happened to me, nobody could tell me. The doctors would refer to me as a walking mystery because of the fact I did not meet any risk factors connected to being struck by a blood clot in the heart, except my cholesterols being a tad too high. But that wasn’t the reason either.
When did you decide to change your life radically?
When a young nurse told me: “Jesper, you are now a chronically ill heart patient…” she did not realize that she was about to change my life in that moment.
That’s when I realized you can only be chronically ill when you’re alive. It occurred to me I had survived the deadliest disease.
That’s when the second part of my life began.
Life is a gift we must never take for granted.
It’s not what happens to us when we are in difficult times that is essential. But what we choose to do that in the end affects the direction for the rest of the one life we have been given.
A good life must be fought for.
Why do you eat plant-based?
The reason I eat plant-based is among other things some interesting data from my doctor in 2013. Back then I was training for an Ironman and had decided to do it living on a plant-based diet to see what my body was capable of. I had a blood test done by my doctor in January 2013 to see if there was anything I should be aware of in connection to exposing my body to this training load connected with Triathlon. The only thing jumping out to my doctor was my cholesterol numbers. It shook him a bit because I was working out a lot and eating following the Danish dietary recommendations. I told him I wanted to skip animal products and only eat plant-based. He could not see the idea of that. But the decision was made. By the end of April, I got another blood test taken and the results was wild to say the least… or as my doctor would say “Jesper, I have never seen a cholesterol number fall this much”.
By the end of 2013 I became a dad and decided to drop my Ironman training and therefore the way I was eating as well.
But when I was struck by the blood clot and my cholesterol numbers were the only thing that wasn’t the way it was supposed to the decision was easy due to my history.
You have chosen to run every day - why is this?
Whether you’re a heart patient or not it’s important to exercise. The heart is a muscle that needs training. The Danish heart union recommends 30 minutes of daily movement (like biking to and from work) and on top of that getting the pulse going for 20 minutes a couple of times per week. I found that running required the smallest effort. Put on a pair of running shoes and then out the door. To have a goal, other that the recommendations, I decided to see if it was possible for me to run every day for a year. I ended up succeeding due to a couple of minor injuries, a bike crash, lots of work, vacation and focus on my family. When a year had passed, a connection of mine told me that I was now a “streak runner”. I had no idea such a title existed. But it kept me going. Running is now a habit to me.
What results have you achieved so far?
A lot of amazing things have happened to me since I started my transformations by the end of 2017.
- I have reduced my asthma drastically. I had asthma diagnosed in 1981 and have struggled with it every summer. Today I hardly notice it anymore.
- I had my cholesterol medicine removed.
- I no longer suffer from grass-, dust- and cat allergies.
- I recover faster after training.
- My energy levels have spiked.
- I have been running every day since July 1st, 2020.
- I have a stronger body.
- I lost 11 kilos in a month after I changed my diet to plant-based. I was not meant to lose weight, but I went from 94 kilos to 83 kilos. Today my weight is stable at 83 kilos.
What are your goals for the future?
My biggest goal is to reduce the amount of heart patients in the world.
To reach this goal I inspire people to question their limits they apply their lives, by being the mirror I needed myself.
RUN FOR LIFE
On the 20th of May my dad would’ve turned 70. He died of cancer back in 2018. So on this day I have decided to run as far and for as long as I’m capable of to honor my dad, honor life and show that us heart patients can still achieve the most incredible things with our bodies.
In addition to the race I have chosen to collect money for Hjerteforeningen. You can contribute in two ways:
- Contribute with a fixed amount.
- Contribute with 10kr. per kilometer and pay according to how far I run.
Finally - what are the thoughts behind the red SAYSKY jacket you’re always using?
I’ve used the red jacket regularly since the summer of 2020. To me, it signals being a heart patient but also serves as a reminder of all the things I’ve been through and what I stand for today. However, I’m transitioning to a more green silhouette, which is a symbol of my fuel now being green and plant-based. Which is a perfect match with your new LE FIX x SAYSKY jacket.