Mark Ford went from being told to avoid exercise to qualifying for a major body-building competition in America.
But he received a blow this week when he was told his visa application has been rejected and he therefore cannot compete in Miami.
Mark was just 40 when he was diagnosed with a severe heart disease that could have killed him ‘at any moment’.
“When I hit 40 in 2015, I went for a general health check where the doctor thought he heard a heart murmur,” said Mark, now 44, from Great Stubbing, Wombwell.
“I went for more tests and they found out I had something called bicuspid aortic stenosis which was caused by a heart condition I had had since birth that I didn’t know about.”
Bicuspid aortic stenosis is the narrowing of a valve leading to the heart which restricts blood flow and could affect the pressure in the heart.
Mark’s heart disease was so severe that the doctor warned him that his heart could give out at any time and advised him to rest and refrain from exercise.
“I’ve always been really active,” said Mark. “I had just qualified as a personal trainer a month before I was told I had heart disease and then I had to give it up because I wasn’t allowed to put any strain on my heart in case it caused a cardiac arrest.
“With what I had, doctors call it the silent killer because they see it a lot in older people where one day their valve just won’t open and they die. It could have happened to me at any moment and when I got diagnosed with it, I’d just completed a week at the gym where I had done my personal bests in weights. It was strange to think that could have been it.”
Mark underwent four open-heart surgeries in 2016 in which a mechanical valve was fitted to help regulate the amount of blood that reaches his heart. As a result of his surgeries, Mark will be on the blood-thinning drug, Warfarin, for the rest of his life.
“The Warfarin just means that my blood is two to three per cent thinner than everyone else’s which means there is less chance of a blood clot, so my new heart valve can keep working as it should.
“It does mean that I have to keep to a healthy diet, watch how much alcohol I consume and make sure that if I get bruised that I go to the doctor’s immediately as I could be internally bleeding. It’s just about taking the steps to make sure you’re safe.”
In order to carry on his fitness journey, Mark began competing in body building competitions and won a place to compete in Miami next month - which he has now had to withdraw from.
“I came second in the masters 40s class in the British Natural Bodybuilding Federation (BNBF),” said Mark. “I was all booked to go to America when my visa application was unfortunately rejected.
“What it means now is that I can’t compete. I am absolutely gutted, but I am going to keep working hard and see if I can qualify for a visa next year to continue my fitness journey.
“If I look at where I was three years ago, I have come so far so it’s all about working hard to get where you want to go.”