June 18th, 2020. I found myself sitting in a hospital room with a blood oxygen level below 90% and a resting heart rate of 145 bpm. A battery of testing later and they discovered I had COVID, along with severe blood clots in my lungs. I remember chuckling at the conversation they were having around “clot blasting” as I found it a funny term and an easy way to keep a smile on my face while laying in bed.
They say there are always days in your life that you never forget, and these were definitely some of them. I was wheeled out of that hospital hooked up to a tank of oxygen, blood thinners and diabetes medicine in hand, and many questions circling in my mind. Did I mention they found out I was type 2 diabetic? Truthfully, the biggest question I had for myself was HOW I got there. We took every COVID precaution you could think of; however, I still got it. I eventually resigned myself to understanding and accepting, albeit with a slight bit of frustration, that this wasn’t my fault and therefore not something I could control. It happened, and I must move forward.
I think I’ve always been a certain kind of stubborn, where when people tell me “oh that’ll be really hard,” or “man, that sounds like too much work.” It kind fuels me and makes me say - bring it. No one was really saying that this time around. No one was egging me on or challenging me, rather it was my own voice going “this is going to be @#$%ing hard.” It’s funny to me how different things sound when you say them to yourself. The hardest battles one will face are the ones against themselves, and it was time to go to war.
Goals were the first thing I started thinking about. What did they look like? What was actually doable? 500 steps a day, 1000, steps per day, then a mile at a time… all while dragging around an oxygen tank for 2 months straight. I’m pretty sure my wife was more than fed up having to constantly unravel my oxygen tube out of fear that I would trip over my own lifeline.
What I quickly realized was that if I did not have a system in place to attain these goals, then it was going to lead me nowhere fast. And I straight up hated the thought of that. So I started with a fitness watch, then a monthly mileage challenge, then a hike I had dreamed of completing, to now hiring and committing to a personal trainer for a year (major shoutout to Lynette from Billy Goat Swift!). I have a current goal of summiting a 20,000 foot mountain this year. Past me would have never imagined this to be attainable. Current me is beyond stoked to try.
So here I am, some 7 months and change past COVID. I’ve lost 50 pounds, run 10ks, hit several months of over 100 moving miles, and gone through several pairs of shoes in the process. I’m proud of what I have accomplished, yet I still have much to learn. Both regarding myself, as well as the world around me. While I recovered from COVID, hundreds of thousands did not. While I focused on myself, people took to the streets to condemn the acts of injustice towards people of color that were being brought into the national spotlight. There is more going on than just what is my own little bubble. Call this a second chance, wakeup call, whatever, but it made me realize there’s much more going on around me that I simply do not understand. It stirred a realization that I need to slow down and listen to the voices of those around me, to hear perspective, love, pain, and most importantly - hope.

John O’Brien

Throughout his 30+ years, John O’Brien has never met someone who isn’t a friend. As someone who is a long time lover of the outdoors but a newcomer to experiencing what they have to offer first hand, John is aiming to take his story and use it as grounds to inspire others that are on their journey in life. Forever a person who likes to listen, he’s always open to hearing the stories of others.

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