By AMERICAN HEART ASSOCIATION NEWS
Riding on a hand-controlled bicycle, Sean Maloney joined his fellow riders as they crossed the finish line Sunday for Heart Across America, a 5,000-mile trek from Palo Alto, California, to Manhattan aimed at helping in the fight against heart disease and stroke.
Everywhere the tour went, they spread awareness and raised funds. As part of the final pep rally, Maloney presented a check for $330,000 to the American Heart Association.
“It was great,” Maloney said. “The finish was fantastic.”
The event was the brainchild of Maloney, who was in line to become the next CEO of Intel when a stroke in February 2010 left him unable to talk, walk or use his right side. He defied expectations in his recovery, even resuming his career before retiring in January 2013.
Now a member of the AHA’s board in Silicon Valley, he announced the ride on Oct. 29 — World Stroke Day — and they shoved off from Northern California on Feb. 22. Alas, there were several devastating setbacks: Maloney broke his left hip and three ribs in a crash outside San Diego, then fellow rider Don Brennen died in his sleep outside Dallas.
Maloney rejoined his team — anchored by Dave Frisch, Brennen’s brother-in-law — shortly after Brennen’s death. Unable to pedal a bike, he rode in the support van and took part in major tour stops. That proved to be a tonic for the sadness of the double-whammy of his injury and the tragic loss of Brennen.
Maloney made his presentation in 14 cities, always with doctors on hand providing health screening, things like blood pressure and cholesterol tests.
“I think I made a difference there,” he said. “All across the country, we saw way too much high blood pressure. It’s alarming. But the good thing is we know it can be fixed.”
In fact, this knowledge sparked what could be Maloney’s next big thing: working to reduce the cost of various screenings. He believes this can help the AHA’s efforts to reach its 2020 goal of improving the cardiovascular health of all Americans by 20 percent while reducing deaths from cardiovascular diseases and stroke by 20 percent.
“I’m a technology guy, and all of this (cost reduction) is in the technology area,” he said. “Let’s say an ultrasound machine is $25,000. That’s too much. The cost has got to come down. And eventually every doctor will have a machine, every person will check their blood pressure — eventually. But, it’s not now.”
Maloney expects to be back on a bike in about a month. However, he’s only about two weeks away from getting back into his beloved scull and rowing again.
“I’ve got a cane and I’m limping,” he said. “But if you are in the boat, you’re seated.”
Maloney listed many highlights, primarily the major stops that included presentations or corporate events. Other scenic memories included Big Sur (“awesome, unbelievable”) and being behind horse and carriages in the Amish country (“incredible”).
Maloney said he’s not sure about doing this again. Still, even with all the low points, he’s glad he did it.
“It was immensely, immensely rewarding,” he said. “I’ve met so many people across America. It was a wonderful experience. American people are so kind.”