“Suffering has been stronger than all other teaching, and has taught me to understand what your heart used to be. I have been bent and broken, but – I hope – into a better shape.”
– Charles Dickens, Great Expectations
I first noticed a different air in a friend of mine when I was toiling under the heat of the run portion of the Cobra Ironman 70.3… I was withering away and already mulling what went wrong- lack of training, wrong strategy or simply age catching up- with my current sorry state; I felt like a leafless tree, roots clawing for moisture under the sun-dried land and straining to move forward, as if trees could crawl … when he passed me, interrupting my thoughts, and gave an encouraging greeting. His strides were steady and his form enviable like he was just starting a short race. It seemed like he would finish the race in another minute or two.
Four fortnights after, we met again at the airport, we were participating in the Bohol 5150. There he was again projecting the same aura of confidence I observed before. He was seated in front of his better half, straight back, almost square shoulders and sporting a glossy black hair that could blind an entire city.
“Hey, you’re fit! Looks like you’re training hard” I said.
“For New York Marathon.” He replied.
Then we talked about his regiments which made my eyes pop with amazement.
“That’s a sub-4 finish, 3:30 even!” I remarked.
“Yeah, that’s the target.” He said, matter of factly.
Only later did I learn that his Herculean effort was more than just finishing in record time. Much more profound, much more meaningful, much more an affair of the heart. So this is his cause, this is his passion, this is his tale…
Article written by Ms. Elvira “Berry” Marfori
NYC marathon participant to raise funds for PGH
On November 2, a Filipino runner once diagnosed with a childhood heart ailment will participate at the world famous TCS New York City Marathon. Atty. Ariel Arriola will run 42 kilometers through the five boroughs of New York City to raise funds for the benefit of more than 600 indigent children under the care of the Department of Pediatrics of the Philippine General Hospital.
In a section about Arriola’s advocacy, the NYC Marathon’s official fundraising website www.crowdrise.com/pghpediatrics/fundraiser/arielarriola explained that because “getting decent medical attention is expensive and out of reach for many who live in the Philippines,” the poor rely on government institutions like the PGH for primary health care needs. However, the limited budget and resources of the PGH are insufficient to bear the daily cost, much less pay for the required medical procedures, of these children. The PGH relies heavily on charities such as the Child Health In Life and Development (CHILD) Foundation, Inc. (http://www.childfoundationinc.org.ph/homepage.html) for financial support.
“I know what it means to live with a heart ailment,” said Arriola. “I also know the cost of curing such an ailment and the positive life-changing benefits of that cure.”
Arriola was around eight years old when he had his first “heart attack” while swimming with his father. He recalls seeing his heart literally trying to leap out of his breast. The diagnosis was that he had a mitral valve prolapse (an improperly closing heart valve) and was advised to refrain from strenuous activities, which included most sports.
Because Arriola did not exhibit further symptoms after that initial episode, he hid his heart ailment and tried to live a normal life. As a teenager, he even continued to engage competitively in sports without telling anyone about his illness. “I knew it would be counterproductive to disclose to anyone that I have a heart ailment,” he recalled. “But I had to be mindful all the time because it was impossible to tell when an episode would occur.”
Sports took a backseat in Arriola’s life as he pursued a law degree at the Ateneo de Manila School of Law, passed the Philippine bar, and joined the global firm of Baker & McKenzie. Later on, he became a Graduate Legal Studies Scholar of his firm at the Columbia Law School and passed the New York bar.
Arriola is a private law practitioner based in Makati who helps foreign companies invest in the Philippines. He was deep into his practice when he had his second episode at age 35. Then newly married and about to become a father to his firstborn, he was playing in a lawyer’s basketball league when had to be rushed to the hospital because of severe and irregular heart palpitations.
A battery of tests revealed that Arriola had Wolff-Parkinson-White Syndrome, a condition where an abnormal extra electrical pathway in the heart can lead to episodes of rapid heart rate. In severe cases, WPW can result in sudden cardiac arrest. Given this diagnosis, Arriola underwent a procedure that destoryed the abnormal electrical pathway in his heart by radiofrequency catheter ablation. With his heart ailment cured, Arriola got into running in 2006 and, eventually, into triathlons in 2010. He trains regularly with his son, Martin, and daughter, Bianca, who are accomplished young athletes in their own right.
Arriola first learned about the children at the PGH from friend who is a pediatric cardiologist there. “Naturally, I identified with these kids, especially those with heart ailments, and it became my personal mission to do something for them. The NYC Marathon is the perfect opportunity to fulfill this mission.“ So far, has has gotten support of corporate sponsors such as Sola Iced Tea, and Jollibee Food Corporation, and media sponsors like Takbo.ph, Endurance Magazine, and numerous generous and selfless individuals (friends and strangers alike) who have made pledges to the CHILD Foundation, which directly supports the PGH’s Department of Pediatrics.
Arriola is asking donors to pledge to the CHILD Foundation the amount of Php100 for each kilometer of the NYC Marathon that he completes.
“It is inspiring to hear stories about the kids at the PGH and the battles they fight everyday. There is a saying that heroes are ordinary people who do extraordinary things. These kids are my heroes. I am asking others to do something extraordinary for these kids.”
Donations can be made to:
CHILD Foundation Inc.
BDO Account Number: 2410072166
CHILD Foundation, Inc.
Department of Pediatrics Office
Philippine General Hospital
Taft Avenue, Ermita, Manila 1000
Contact Person: Dr. Monette D. Faner
Telephone Number: +63-2-211-7940
Crossing the finish line is a moment of triumph. Making a difference for a better world is victory eternal.
Padayon, my friend. Padayon!