Elmar Sprink – a rider with heart

Posted on 28 March 2017

Elmar Sprink is an amazing example of how the human body can face anything – when it is provided the necessary training and support. As a heart transplant recipient Elmar spent months waiting for a heart to become available, and when he was given the opportunity for a new lease on life, he grabbed it with both hands.

When he was recovering following his transplant surgery he set himself targets to aim for such as sitting up in bed or drinking coffee. Slowly he began to increase the importance and gravity of his targets and he has now completed 3 Ironman races in Germany as well as the Trans Alpine Run – an ultra-marathon over 8 days and 230km.

Following his successful Ironman events, Elmar looked to the next challenge he could target and identified the Absa Cape Epic as his next summit. It is important to note that these challenges have not been chosen in isolation, nor have they been selected lightly. Together with his attending transplant team, the events were assessed and the possible effects on his health were identified.

On the dawn of the Absa Cape Epic, Chief Medical Officer Dr Jann Killops took over the role of monitoring his health. He had been training in the region for some time to acclimatise himself to conditions to ensure that above all, his health remained intact. Daily visits to the race hospital meant his health was constantly monitored and his kidney function was examined with Jann’s eagle eye.

However, it was only during the second half of the week that injury befell Elmar and he received an open wound to his knee. For a normal rider this would simply require basic wound care and monitoring. But for Elmar the potential consequences were far more severe. Immunosuppressant medication also suppresses the body’s ability to fight infection. Dr Jann explains, “In this case good hygiene, effective wound care as well as careful selection of antibiotics that would not interfere with his current medication were required. I did this in consultation with his medical team in Germany and we were able to achieve the best outcome.”

The Mediclinic race hospital is a newer experience for Elmar as he describes the medical support of other events as being on a smaller scale with a much narrower scope of practice. “This hospital is like those my dad would support during his time in the army, you have all sorts of equipment necessary to monitor athletes,” he says.

On completing the amazing Absa Cape Epic journey, he firstly gives credit to his wife for all the support Karen provides logistically. Then he goes on to explain how he ranks the hardest things he has done, “Firstly waiting for seven months for a heart was very difficult, after that things got a little quiet until I entered this race – this is the next hardest thing I have done.” Elmar points to the absolute concentration you need every moment you are on the bike – there are no rest periods on the course. He goes on to compliment the race organisation for their focus on rider safety.

And at the end of this 8 day journey around the Western Cape, this remarkable athlete who has already achieved so much, took the time out to credit the “little family” ensconced in the race hospital and thank them for every interaction, even those en route, to ensure that he and other riders reached their destination in the best possible health.


Published in Cape Epic

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