Watch the journey of Al Taylor from his diagnosis of a congenital heart defect, his surgery performed by Dr. Benjamin Peeler of Carolinas HealthCare System, and his rehab and training that led to him finishing a half-marathon.

His medical adventure resulted from happenstance. When a new CT scanner at his hospital needed one more volunteer for an initial series of test scans, he volunteered. Much to his surprise, the scan’s results revealed a congenital heart defect—not an immediate medical threat, but something that would eventually require major surgery to correct. Besides being the President and CEO of Stanly Regional Medical Center, Al Taylor was also a devoted fitness enthusiast and active member of WaveRunners, a local running group in his hometown of Albemarle. It’s safe to say that, for Al Taylor, running and fitness was literally in his blood.

But despite his years of conditioning and the completion of six half-marathons and unknown to him, he had been born with a hole in his heart. Blood was flowing the wrong way with every beat. In addition, one of the veins running from his lungs to his heart was actually connected on the wrong side, causing the right side of his heart to enlarge. If left untreated, the condition could eventually lead to irreversible heart damage and an increased risk of stroke. As a result, Taylor realized it was time for his heart to get a major tune-up. He made an appointment to see Dr. Benjamin Peeler, a pediatric and congenital cardiac surgeon at Carolinas Medical Center in Charlotte, who is a renowned specialist in the repair of congenital heart defects. Following their meeting, a surgery date was scheduled for the morning of October 1.

He was released from the hospital just four days after Dr. Peeler’s, lengthy but successful surgery. Within one week, he was at the Stanly County YMCA navigating a slow and guarded walk around the track. As November approached and his condition gradually improved, he set his sights on competing in a half marathon held in South Carolina during February. "I really started training the first day I was able to get out of bed at the hospital," recalls Taylor.

So at 5:30 a.m. on February 16, just four and a half months after undergoing major open heart surgery, Al Taylor joined his wife, daughter and thousands of other runners in the morning cold of Myrtle Beach. He was preparing to run 13.1 miles and give his recently-tuned-up-heart a true performance test. Before the race began he was proclaimed "a true health advocate" to the waiting crowd around him. "He’s gone from flat line to the finish line in just four and a half months," announced Peter Ascuitto, one of Al’s friends in the Uwharrie Running Club.

Life, if lived well, provides many lessons learned, and Al Taylor certainly has a few to choose from. "Regardless of what it is going on in your life, you can live healthy," he says with a smile. "I have personally experienced the Power of One. In my case this meant clinical excellence and seamless coordination of care. What this has done for me is to affirm that I can overcome anything. One System and One team-all working together on behalf of my one heart. Hopefully my example will let other cardiac patients realize that they can do the same."

And you can be sure, coming from one who truly knows, that this statement comes from the heart.

Al Tayor with the CT scanner that detected
his congenital heart defect.
Al with his family after running a 1/2 marathon
just 138 after his heart surgery.