She almost died of a heart attack. Now she's training for 'American Ninja Warrior'

In Red Rock Canyon, about 30 minutes outside of Las Vegas, Molly Burdick is trying to scale a boulder using ...

Posted: Dec 14, 2018 12:42 PM
Updated: Dec 14, 2018 12:42 PM

In Red Rock Canyon, about 30 minutes outside of Las Vegas, Molly Burdick is trying to scale a boulder using nothing more than her hands, feet and some chalk.

No ropes, no harness, just a crash pad to break her fall -- which she does, over and over again. Every time she falls, though, she smiles, shakes out her muscles and starts her ascent back up the rock.

Cardiovascular disease

Diseases and disorders

Health and medical

Heart disease

Outdoor recreation

Sports and recreation

Wall and rock climbing

Deaths and fatalities

Society

For most people, this would classify as an intense workout. For Burdick, this is her vacation.

She hasn't always lived the life of an extreme athlete, however. Just a few years ago, she was living like a prisoner in her own house, spending most of her days stuck on the couch.

Burdick was only 25 years old when her life took a sudden turn. She was lying in bed one night when she felt her heart beginning to pound faster and faster. She knew something was wrong as she tried in vain to slow her pulse.

"I saw that putting an ice pack on your chest can be helpful, so I did that," she said. "After an hour, I realized it wasn't going away."

Burdick woke up her toddler son and dropped him off with her parents -- terrified that it could be the final time she ever saw him -- and then rushed to the hospital.

She was having a dangerous arrhythmia. Her heart rate was up to 180 beats per minute.

Doctors tried using medicine to normalize her heart beat. It didn't work.

"They realized that if they didn't take more drastic measures, I was going to go into cardiac arrest. They needed to cardiovert me, which is when they take the electrical shocks to your heart."

That procedure worked, but Burdick was then facing a whole new life -- one as a heart patient.

Mending a wounded heart

Burdick was diagnosed with congenital heart disease.

"It's structural and electrical issues that I was born with,' she said. "However, with me always having been an athlete, I was undiagnosed my entire life."

Alive but in a weakened state, Burdick struggled to regain her strength and control of her life. Once back home, even walking up the stairs caused her heart to race.

"My heart was still always out of control and medication didn't really seem to help," she said. "The idea of even leaving my house was nonexistent. I just remember breaking down one day in bed and crying because I realized this is no life. I'm going to start doing things that make me feel alive."

She began fighting her way back with small steps.

First, the stairs in her house and then walks down the street. Before long she was hiking near her home in Oregon.

After building up her confidence, Burdick decided to push herself to new heights and visited a rock climbing gym.

"I was still super-weak. I didn't even know what I was doing," she said. "It went from just making two moves and falling, to getting stronger and stronger and then climbing outdoors."

'I finally learned to trust my body'

Burdick, now 33, focuses on a specific form of rock climbing called bouldering in which climbers scale smaller rock formations without a rope or harness. Crash pads at the bottom of the rock break their falls.

It's good for building upper body strength and it's been great for her heart.

"It made the healthy parts of my heart stronger and pump a lot better," said Burdick, who lives in Beaverton, Oregon and is a senior product manager at Nike. To get up the boulder you have to slow your heart rate down, stay calm and constantly change your breathing pattern."

Having gone through several procedures, Burdick now has a heart monitor that constantly checks her pulse. She also makes sure to have her heart medication on hand in case of an emergency.

But she's not letting her condition control her life. She's currently training for her next goal -- to be the first American Ninja Warrior with congenital heart disease. "American Ninja Warrior" is a TV reality series in which athletes tackle obstacle courses.

Burdick hopes that by sharing her story, she can help bring some attention to what she calls a "hidden illness."

And she knows her story won't get out if she's stuck on the couch.

"I finally learned to trust my body," she said. "I always tell people that rock climbing saved my life because I wasn't living before this and, for me, that freedom is huge."

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 159036

Reported Deaths: 3879
CountyCasesDeaths
DeSoto10563104
Hinds10414204
Harrison7397113
Jackson6655128
Rankin6057107
Lee540396
Madison5120107
Forrest394786
Jones376188
Lauderdale3663147
Lafayette341053
Washington3321108
Lamar301950
Oktibbeha255262
Lowndes252867
Bolivar248084
Panola237353
Neshoba2280122
Marshall225051
Leflore211191
Monroe209778
Pontotoc208131
Lincoln200566
Sunflower194155
Warren183058
Tate180451
Union172926
Copiah170840
Pike166760
Scott161330
Yazoo161340
Itawamba159936
Alcorn159328
Pearl River158969
Coahoma155943
Prentiss154931
Simpson154053
Adams147252
Grenada145445
Leake141844
Holmes134461
Covington130040
Tippah130030
George129525
Winston128726
Hancock127641
Wayne123024
Attala122834
Marion121447
Tishomingo114043
Chickasaw110732
Newton110529
Tallahatchie99427
Clay96127
Clarke94853
Jasper87023
Stone82015
Calhoun79513
Walthall79330
Montgomery78426
Carroll75515
Lawrence74614
Smith74216
Yalobusha74228
Noxubee73317
Perry68726
Tunica63019
Greene62422
Jefferson Davis59617
Claiborne59216
Amite57615
Humphreys55219
Quitman5107
Benton50418
Kemper48018
Webster47714
Wilkinson40722
Jefferson38312
Choctaw3637
Franklin3635
Sharkey32917
Issaquena1214
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 256828

Reported Deaths: 3711
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson34214511
Mobile20299366
Madison13925150
Tuscaloosa13591156
Montgomery12659238
Shelby1095877
Baldwin9163137
Lee792566
Morgan710851
Etowah677467
Calhoun6695121
Marshall665757
Houston548239
DeKalb504738
Cullman472043
St. Clair451857
Limestone447546
Lauderdale436054
Elmore427564
Walker3818111
Talladega374457
Jackson350723
Colbert336443
Blount310043
Autauga287342
Franklin259734
Coffee254115
Dale242054
Dallas232932
Chilton230841
Russell22813
Covington227934
Escambia206131
Tallapoosa189191
Chambers185950
Pike162214
Clarke161819
Marion146136
Winston141924
Lawrence135336
Pickens127720
Geneva12638
Marengo125224
Bibb123938
Barbour120629
Butler118842
Randolph105922
Cherokee105524
Hale99732
Fayette96316
Clay93525
Washington93319
Henry8946
Monroe83811
Lowndes82129
Cleburne79914
Macon76522
Crenshaw72930
Conecuh72414
Lamar7138
Bullock70919
Perry6927
Wilcox64918
Sumter58922
Greene44218
Choctaw43519
Coosa3724
Out of AL00
Unassigned00
Tupelo
Overcast
45° wxIcon
Hi: 50° Lo: 42°
Feels Like: 45°
Columbus
Overcast
46° wxIcon
Hi: 55° Lo: 43°
Feels Like: 46°
Oxford
Overcast
41° wxIcon
Hi: 43° Lo: 36°
Feels Like: 38°
Starkville
Overcast
43° wxIcon
Hi: 53° Lo: 39°
Feels Like: 43°
WTVA Radar
WTVA Temperatures
WTVA Severe Weather