Fifteen years after open-heart surgery, Concord, NH athlete inspires others to never give up

Written by Erin Dailey

Jeremy Woodward of Concord is the definition of a heart warrior. In 2007, Woodward was 28 years old and heart failure. His heart failure developed after an aortic tissue valve stopped working, which prevented his heart from pumping blood. He then developed a clot on the left side of his heart and had a very small chance of survival. However, Woodward defeated all odds with unwavering determination and constantly keeping a positive spirit.

Fifteen years later after enduring open-heart surgery to repair his valve, Woodward is living the life he was not sure he would be alive to see. Not only did he live to see another day, but he went on to start a family and to complete marathons, triathlons, and Ironman competitions. Although he had started competing in those races after heart surgery, he has always been athletic and has competed in martial arts for the past 29 years.

Woodward strongly believes that being active and healthy before his surgery helped him throughout the healing process and made the transition back into normal life easier. He is living proof of how important it is to maintain a healthy lifestyle.

He believes that the American Heart Association “is an organization that creates connectivity, opportunity, and a chance to inspire others by sharing their story or journey. It is the opportunity to tell your story to others to lift them up and keep them moving forward.” He admires the Association’s work to raise awareness about heart disease and the warning signs of a stroke.

One way he has supported the Association is by participating in Tedy’s Team at the Boston Marathon. Tedy’s Team was founded after Tedy Bruschi (three-time Super Bowl winner with the New England Patriots) suffered a stroke at 31 years old. This team is dedicated to raising awareness for heart disease along with the warning signs and symptoms of a stroke. Tedy’s team helps to support survivors and their families on their journey to recovery and a healthy life.

Not only is Woodward hoping to run the Boston Marathon with Tedy’s Team again in 2024, he also has a some exciting opportunities to further share his journey on the horizon. A documentary about his life, produced by Stiry based in Utah, will hopefully be ready in early spring of 2023. He is also applying to be on a TEDx Talk and has already made it through to the second round. If he makes it through the last round, he will go on TEDx in February 2023.

Woodward is married to his wife, Brook, and has three daughters that were born after he survived his open-heart surgery. His daughters see the scar on their dad’s chest but are too young to fully understand their dad’s circumstances 15 years ago and how he is a survivor and inspiration. He has been training and is hopes to compete in an Ironman this November. He is excited for his daughter to see him cross the finish line. It is important for him to know that his daughters understand the idea of never giving up and that everyone can do and complete difficult things if they set their mind to it.

“Surround yourself with positive people at all times,” said Woodward “It is not an easy ride and there will be bumps in the road, so find the people that you can reach out to and that you can rely on. Whether you are recently diagnosed, or 15 years post-op you need to stay positive.” Woodward is known for keeping an optimistic outlook throughout his diagnosis and recovery process, but even he admits that it can be hard to stay positive every day. Having a support system of friends and family who can lift you on the days that you are not feeling the best, makes all the difference.