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Jim Schaffer, sidelined from competitive running six years ago, made his comeback on Oct. 4, 2015.
The Oswego resident hit his stride at the 2015 University of Chicago Medicine Comer Children's Hospital RBC Race for the Kids.
"It was great to get back to being able to do a competitive race," said Schaffer, who ran with the medical center surgeon who performed his life-changing bypass two years ago. "Even to run a few miles means so much to me. Before, I literally could not run at all."
Schaffer, 58, had five marathons under his belt when he was waylaid by knee problems in 2009. An aneurysm followed in 2011. Though surgeons repaired the aneurysm at another hospital, the veteran runner soon noticed that his right leg tired easily. Blood flow was an issue.
"I could only go a couple blocks before having to stop," he said.
A referral to UChicago Medicine vascular surgeon Ross Milner, MD, changed his life in 2013. Milner, a professor of surgery and director of the Center for Aortic Diseases, performed a complete "redo," placing a new bypass to Schaffer's leg that allowed more normal blood flow.
The athlete saw immediate results. But Milner, whose wife is on the Comer Development Board, wanted to get his patient running again and issued a challenge for the 2015 Comer Children's-RBC Race.
"I told him that I was running the race and he should as well," Milner said.
His patient accepted — and came in third in his age group, finishing at 24:27. Milner finished in 15th place in his age group at 29:50. All told, the 1,800 participants raised more than $306,000 for pediatric research and programs.
"Jim ran eight-minute miles in the Comer 5K, and he could not run at all before I did the redo surgery," Milner said. "It is an amazing result for him."
Now that Schaffer's back in fighting shape, he plans to pick up his pace. He is focused on 5Ks for now, but he plans to redouble his efforts and compete in a 10K.
As for Milner, he is rethinking his running regime since his patient beat him by about six minutes. "I guess I need to train more to catch him," he said.
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