Snips and snails, and puppy dog tails...that's what little boys are made of!
Little boys like to dig in the dirt and pop wheelies on their bicycles...at least my boys do. But for our family, normal activities can be scary. As a protective mother of a heart kid, I find myself torn between letting my grubby little boy be a kid, and protecting him from injury. When your little one has a severe heart defect and takes blood thinners and diuretics, it puts them at a greater risk for internal bleeding and dehydration problems.
One might question whether biking is a good option for a child with a severe heart defect? My answer is ABSOLUTELY!!!....but not without taking some precautions.
Biking is a good option for someone with a heart problem because they can rest when needed. It works many muscle groups while maintaining a relatively low heart rate. It's good for them and good for you too! Check out Harvard Medical School's article about it and get out of the house for some healthy exercise.
But first, consider these precautions:
Make sure you pick a day with milder temps and less humidity. This will help heart kids (and their mothers- let's be real! Iowa can be brutal!) breathe more easily and stay hydrated.
Wearing a helmet is a must for any child, but especially for the heart child who is on blood thinners.
When my busy little boy started to ride a bike, I purposefully observed him get on his bike without a helmet. You heard me....I let him rambunctiously get on his bike WITHOUT a helmet. I saw the look in his eyes as he mounted himself on the seat. You know the look I'm talking about- that eager look filled with high expectations. That look that is ready to destroy and conquer every curb in the neighborhood!
I had to set the standard from the get-go. I grabbed his arm and knelt down so I was at eye level with him. I slowly and sternly told him he may never, EVER even think about getting on his bike without a helmet again. Then I made him wait a whole hour before riding his bike.
He learned quickly and I haven't had to worry about it since.
Everyone needs to stay hydrated on bike rides, but heart kiddos even more so. Many times heart warriors are taking diuretics which can make them more prone to dehydration. If you can grab something with electrolytes in it (like Propel), even better! I love electrolytes for these heart kids! I'll write a whole separate post about that sometime...lucky you:)
Allow time to take breaks for your heart hero. I usually prep my heart-healthy kids ahead of time, letting them know this will be a LEISURELY bike ride... not a competitive one (if you know our family, you would understand my need to tone down the competitiveness and to force breaks every now and then).
The High Trestle Trail bike trail is great for heart kids because there are little shelters every few miles with water fountains and tables. You can park here.
If something bad does happen, it's always good to have a plan. This app can call an ambulance and send them to your location with the push of a button. It works as long as you have cell service, so keep that in mind. It is also FREE. Here it is!
Here is the City of Des Moines Parks and Recreation Center's bike trail map.
Here is the DOT's interactive bike trail map.
If you are biking somewhere that is not on these maps and would like to chart your mileage etc there's an app for that too!
Basically, these heart kids can do everything normal kids can do, just with a little extra planning and precautions. Use good logic and resist the tendency to go to the extreme. Happy trails everyone!