April 17, 2000 (New York) -- Talk about inspiration: heart transplant recipient Danalyn Adams Scharf, 28, is set to be one of the more than 18,000 runners competing in this year's Boston Marathon on Monday.
A runner since she was 14, Scharf underwent a heart transplant in March 1997 at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston after being diagnosed with a rare virus that ravaged her heart. Competing in a marathon has been a lifelong goal, she tells WebMD.
"People who undergo transplants can lead a normal life and be as healthy as they were before," she says. "There is hope. Organ donation works." She will run the marathon as part of Team Brigham, a 125-member squad assembled by the hospital to raise money for various programs. Scharf's fundraising efforts will benefit the Heart Hope Fund to support transplant research at the hospital.
Joining Scharf in the marathon will be her husband, Matthew, who has been with her every step of the way.
This year, Scharf and her husband plan to balance running and walking throughout the race and finish in about six and a half hours. "We'll certainly finish, but we won't be breaking any records," says Scharf, a resident of Dover, N.H. "I am still recuperating from surgery this year, so next year I plan to run the marathon again and hopefully do even better."
As far as training goes, "during the week, we try to run four miles a day or take a cross-training class at the gym. On the weekends, we go for longer runs," she says. "Aside from that, we are getting a lot of sleep and eating right."
Living a healthy lifestyle comes naturally to Scharf. "I had never been sick in my entire life until February 1997, when I came down with a flu that wouldn't go away," she says. "I never smoked, never took drugs, and ate a vegetarian diet. I was really healthy. It even shocked doctors that I wasn't getting better."
"Good luck," says Dean Rader, a 34-year-old electrical engineer in Montclair, N.J. Rader underwent heart surgery in 1996 to replace a damaged heart valve with a mechanical valve.
"I think it's amazing," says Rader, who is also a new father. "This story gives me hope and shows that you can do just about anything after surgery. I like to run five to seven miles a day, and I've started swimming."
"This is wonderfully inspiring that a patient can run a marathon after undergoing heart transplant surgery," says Lewis G. Maharam, MD, a sports medicine specialist in New York City and the president of New York chapter of the American College of Sports Medicine.
"However, as a marathon medical director, a heart transplant patient running a marathon does make me nervous," he says. Maharam is the medical director of the Suzuki Rock-n-Roll Marathon in San Diego, which will be held June 4, 2000, and the Country Music Marathon in Nashville, slated for April 29, 2000.