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Open heart surgery survivor to run ultra-marathon for cardiac charity

PUBLISHED: 12:00 06 October 2019

Joe Rejek, from Bowthorpe, is set to take on an ultra-marathon just two years after having lifesaving open heart surgery. Picture: Supplied by Joe Rejek

Joe Rejek, from Bowthorpe, is set to take on an ultra-marathon just two years after having lifesaving open heart surgery. Picture: Supplied by Joe Rejek

Supplied by Joe Rejek

A Norwich man is set to take on an ultra-marathon in support of a cause very close to his heart - just two years after having lifesaving open heart surgery.

Joe Rejek, from Bowthorpe, is set to take on an ultra-marathon just two years after having lifesaving open heart surgery. Picture: Supplied by Joe RejekJoe Rejek, from Bowthorpe, is set to take on an ultra-marathon just two years after having lifesaving open heart surgery. Picture: Supplied by Joe Rejek

In 2017, 28-year-old Joe Rejek, from Bowthorpe, was lying in a bed at London's St Barts Hospital recovering from four-and-a-half hours of surgery to replace part of the largest artery in his body.

And now Mr Rejek, who had to undergo the surgery to prevent his aorta expanding to the point of bursting inside his chest, is set to take on a tough physical challenge in support of a charity that helped through his recovery.

Next weekend, he is set to run the King's Forest ultra-marathon, in Suffolk, in support of the Norfolk Heart Trust (NHT).

Mr Rejek said he was inspired to take on the 31.1 miles (50km) distance as a reminder to others "that having a heart operation does not mean the end of fitness or exercise".

Joe Rejek, from Bowthorpe, is set to take on an ultra-marathon just two years after having lifesaving open heart surgery. Picture: Supplied by Joe RejekJoe Rejek, from Bowthorpe, is set to take on an ultra-marathon just two years after having lifesaving open heart surgery. Picture: Supplied by Joe Rejek

He said: "Very few people are aware that I had heart surgery because I generally look well but if I hadn't had part of my aorta replaced, it would have expanded to the point of bursting.

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"Doing this event was partly to prove to myself that I could get back to the level of fitness that I had before heart surgery but it quickly took on a bigger meaning.

"The closer the event gets, the more nervous I'm becoming.

Joe Rejek, from Bowthorpe, is set to take on an ultra-marathon just two years after having lifesaving open heart surgery. Picture: Supplied by Joe RejekJoe Rejek, from Bowthorpe, is set to take on an ultra-marathon just two years after having lifesaving open heart surgery. Picture: Supplied by Joe Rejek

"I still don't know whether I'll be able to complete the ultra-marathon or not and need as much support as I can get".

Mr Rejeck originally planned to run the ultra-marathon simply for the challenge but soon after signing up decided to run in support of the charity which supports cardiac services across the county, including at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital (NNUH).

The NHT has provided the hospital with heart scanners, ECG machines and monitors, as well as specialist training for doctors, nurses and other health professionals in cardiac care.

Dr Tim Gilbert, consultant cardiologist at the NNUH, said: "Without the Norfolk Heart Trust and its generous donors I know with absolute certainty many of the treatments that we offer would not be available at the hospital."

The Kings Forest events are on Saturday, October 12 with more than 420 runners taking part in half-marathon, marathon or ultra-marathon distances.

- To support Mr Rejek, visit his JustGiving page.

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