Kari Turkowski, former college and elite athlete, has a second chance at life. For the last eight years, she has been living with a heart condition that has no definite diagnosis. She is sharing her story of survival, perseverance, and determination after surviving the moment she thought would never happen: her heart stopped beating. Kari has committed to a strenuous goal of becoming an Ironman, a competition that includes a 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike and 26.2 mile run. She will pursue this goal in Madison, Wisconsin, on September 10, 2017. Kari has been a life long elite athlete; she was a three sport athlete at St. Cloud State University, with future hopes of pursuing professional and Olympic sports. Kari completed an accounting degree, and later excelled at a CPA firm in Minneapolis for 7 years. During her time at the firm, Kari continued to train at levels that would prepare her to be a top athlete at elite volleyball competitions. However, Kari was faced with a life changing heart condition which became the driving force for her to leave her promising accounting career at the age of 30 and pursue the medical field.
There is currently no known solution, other than drugs/procedures, to Kari’s heart condition. She is determined to find answers and resolutions, with hopes of helping others faced with a similar heart condition. She reached her goal of becoming a predoctoral student at the Mayo Clinic, where she has been and continues to be a patient for her heart condition. Her journey is one full of roller coaster emotions and life changing moments, which has impacted the way Kari now lives her life. Her identity of being an athlete was questioned as this condition halted her competitive lifestyle and elite training. Kari has been fighting to keep a piece of that athlete identity and has grown and accepted the changing pieces of her character that will allow her to fulfill her purpose in life.
Kari chases goals that satisfy her quality of life, which many of those dreams involve being an athlete and living a life full of new experiences that challenge her comfort zone. One of those dreams is to become an Ironman, and demonstrate her strength of heart. However, Kari’s heart condition has now progressed to ‘stage-2 heart failure’ which comes with the burden of having to indefinitely take a new regimen of drugs with hopes of creating longevity. As with many athletes, their identity, and their passion for competition gives them purpose and spirit for life. However, with Kari, is this all just a selfish way to complete a goal…being warned that she is pushing her heart, or is this a journey of hope, inspiration, and finding your purpose in life all while educating and helping others find their way?
Audiences will see the competitive nature of Kari and learn that she wants to inspire others to defy the odds of life and be courageous in pursuing their dreams, but also give selflessly to find answers to her condition and to learn what the heart can truly endure. With a team of doctors and researchers at the Mayo Clinic and St. Thomas, Kari will have support and guidance as she strives to be an Ironman; which has become one of her most challenging and exciting goals thus far. Furthermore, this remarkable story will exemplify the courage and perseverance of a woman who was not only challenged physically, but emotionally and spiritually, as well. Meanwhile, Kari will put on her lab coat and study genetic heart diseases while working side-by-side with her team of doctors to study conditions like hers and find answers for those who may unfortunately encounter this same condition in the future.