In his moment of victory, Adam Robinson was able to reflect on what it had taken to get there.
A crucial three-street sprint helped secure the fiercely-contested traditional Ba’ Game in Orkney for his team the Uppies on New Year’s Day.
The short but significant run to touch the ba’ against the wall would have been unthinkable for Adam just 17 months ago.
Then he was unable to complete a five-minute walk to the shop.
In 2022, he underwent major surgery for a potentially fatal heart defect from which he thought he may never recover.
But following a long and gruelling rehabilitation, he is in training for a triathlon and wants to share his experience to help others.
Active runner and cyclist
A few years ago Adam, 34, was a very active runner and cyclist who was a regular gym-goer and had taken part in marathons.
But in 2020, just prior to the Covid pandemic, he took ill with what he thought was a bad dose of flu.
He went to his GP and was given medication for bone pain and fatigue.
As the symptoms continued over several months he paid for private treatment and scans, including cancer checks, in an effort to find the problem.
In September 2021, after his partner woke him up when he experienced a racing heart, he realised something else was wrong.
He was later referred to a hospital in Edinburgh where he was living at the time and discovered he had severe aortic valve leak which required open heart surgery.
“I was taken aback to say the least”, said Adam. “In some way it was a relief to find out what was wrong, but I struggled with the diagnosis.
“Even though I was unwell, it was a big shock to be told I had a congenital heart defect.
“After more tests I was told the leak was severe and if I didn’t have surgery I would die.”
He found out later he had a bicuspid aortic valve, a condition that affects 1-2% of people in the world.
Flaps of tissue, or cusps, on the valve open and close with each heartbeat. Usually the aortic valve has three cusps, but a bicuspid valve has only two.
After two operations were postponed, Adam returned to Orkney and visited the Balfour Hospital in Kirkwall when he felt unwell.
More than £12,000 on treatment
A scan showed his left ventricle was under severe strain. He was taken to Edinburgh Royal Infirmary on September 26 2022 and operated on the next day.
A new valve was inserted in a five-and-a-half hour operation.
Two weeks after surgery he struggled to walk to his local shop in Orkney just five minutes away.
But gradually he improved. Walks increased from five minutes to an hour, 5,000 steps became 20,000 and eventually he began light jogging.
It was now March 2023 and Adam had spent more than £12,000 on treatment.
A year after his surgery he celebrated by walking up the Old Man of Storr.
“I was annoyed I had spent a lot of money, but I was grateful I was in a position to do it.
“I was just desperate to find out what was wrong with me.”
Despite there being no permanent fix and having to have the valve replaced in around 15 years, Adam says he now feels good.
“Compared to how I felt, it’s night and day.
“People take their health for granted and, being young and fit, I certainly was in that category.
“I knew something was wrong. I think my body was telling me for a bit of time. It was only afterwards I realised it was maybe telling me in other ways.”
Adam has taken part in the men’s Ba’ Game since he was 15 and the boys’ game before that.
Getting back to the competition spurred him on to recover his fitness.
“It was definitely a big motivating factor. It was definitely on my mind to get fit for the Ba’.
‘I was thinking how far I’d come’
“To run the ba’ against the wall was just unbelievable and there was a great sense of relief.
“I was thinking at the time it was happening ‘I’ve done it’ and how far I’d come.
“There was a time I didn’t think I was going to get better, when I was struggling to walk five minutes.”
Adam, who works as a parliamentary assistant for Livingston MP Hannah Bardell, is now a volunteer with the British Heart Foundation.
He has been contacted by people who have suffered their own health issues.
“Its hugely motivating to hear from other people who have been through surgery and I can relate to some of the experiences.
“I never thought it would happen to me. You hear about things happening to other people and think it happens to them and not to me . But it did
“I’m now happy to share my own experience to try to help people in any way I can.”