Check Up 13: Heart scan potentially saves a man's life

(WTHR Staff)
Check Up 13 Heart health
Check Up 13 - Cycling Friendship

INDIANAPOLIS (WTHR) — They are friends who met by chance and ride by choice. Their story behind the cyclists surprises even them.

Dave Blase is a retired professional cyclist and high school teacher, and the popular Hoosier film "Breaking Away" is loosely based on Blase's third Little 5 race at IU-Bloomington.

Robert Robison is a lifelong cyclist and cardiac surgeon.

The two met after Blase flunked a heart scan.

"He was around 1600 on his score, and it should be in the low low 100's really," Robison said.

Blase said he agreed to the scan only because his wife insisted. He felt fine and had no symptoms.

"It was one of those kinds of things that just goes to show you that you may think you are fine, and you are not," Blase said.

The St. Vincent Ascension heart team ordered subsequent tests and discovered four blockages affecting the blood flow through Blase's heart.

"Especially with the left main blockage that is called the widow maker, and his life expectancy was very short," Robison said.

Blase remembers Robison trying to communicate the severity of his situation.

'Well probably if you would have kept at it, sooner or later, you would have just dropped over dead,'" Blase said.

Robinson performed a quadruple bypass surgery at the St. Vincent Heart Center and issued a challenge for Blase after he recovered.

'I want you to ride with me next summer,' Robinson challenged Blase when he had planned to ride across Indiana on the RAIN ride. RAIN stands for Ride Across Indiana.

"He wanted me to join him," Blase said.

Blase is now 79. At the time, it had been 20 years since he had attempted more than 100 miles in a day.

"The mere length of time to sit on the bike 160 miles, I thought, 'I don't know how my legs are going to hold up on that,'" Blase recalled.

"Dave was clearly the superior rider and 15 years basically older than me," Robison said.

And then mid-ride, Robison had a crash.

"The last 60 miles, I kept saying, 'Dave just go ahead I'll finish; you know you can go ahead of me,'" Robison said.

But Blase would not break away.

"I said, 'No, we agreed to ride together, so we are riding together,'" Blase said.

They crossed the finish line together and have kept the connection.

"He and I went on a 45-mile bike ride on Saturday, and it was the same story — I started off pretty well, and then I'm trying to keep up with the guy," Robison said.

So now when you see this duo pack out and about, challenging each other with a pace, know that it's a team that is possible because they met just in time.

"His prognosis is excellent. He's the type of guy who, probably on a ride or who knows what, his wife would have just found him some place," Robison said.

Blase said he has a family history of heart disease, and he's grateful his was detected in time to save his life.

"I feel lucky, and I feel blessed," Blase said.

If you would like to get the same screening that Dave got, the $49 heart scan at St. Vincent Ascension is available through Check Up 13 to people who are 40 years and older and haven't had a scan in the last five years. To qualify, you must have a least one risk factor. Click here to learn more.

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