Meet our Step Challenge Spokesperson: Bruce Benda
Hey there! My name is Bruce Benda, and I am a spokesperson and participant in this year’s SparkPittsburgh Step Challenge. In 1985, I moved to Pittsburgh from Michigan to work for the company now known as Covestro, where I am responsible for healthcare commercial operations. My career started right here in the Steel City but took me to ten other locations around the world, including Minneapolis and Detroit.
I chose this picture to illustrate what is truly important to me: Family. This year, I will celebrate my 30th anniversary with my lovely wife Anne. She is my hero in more ways than I can mention. From left to right in the picture are my son Edd, my wife Anne, my daughter Nancy, me, my daughter Hannah, and her husband Collin. Anne and I are empty nesters, and our kids are spread out all over the country, from Michigan to California and Georgia. Despite our distance, we still get together regularly because the importance of Family is not unique to me.
I grew up in a family of nine kids, and sports and competition were a central part of my upbringing. I still live an active lifestyle, which includes camping, kayaking, golf, tennis, fishing, skiing, and running among many other activities. For the parts of the day where I need to keep my heart rate a little lower, I absolutely love reading and learning. I recently finished the McRyan Mystery Series by Roger Stelljes and am on target to far surpass my reading goal for the year.
In considering the wonderful life I have here Western Pennsylvania, I must always work to make positive changes in my own life and inspire others to do the same. While my competitive nature certainly fuels a portion of my excitement and enthusiasm for the Step Challenge, there are greater forces at play in my life.
I am a survivor of a Sudden Cardiac Arrest (SCA), which happened almost exactly four years ago in Ligonier, PA. There is an inherent gravity to the word “Sudden” because within the blink of an eye, or perhaps more fittingly the beat of a heart, my life changed forever.
People might not realize that more than 365,000 people suffer SCAs outside of hospitals each year in the U.S. Most do not survive. My chances of survival were less than 3%. I am here today because of fitness, CPR, AED, and ground-breaking medical treatment. I would be remiss if I did not also mention the unbelievable support of family and friends.
I share my story whenever possible because the retelling is therapeutic for me and that the story itself can lead others to take a good look at their own health direction and lifestyle choices. About six months after my SCA, I was asked to tell my story at the meeting of the Board of the American Heart Association (AHA) of Western PA. As I shared my story, I realized that I had a natural passion for the work supported by the AHA. I have been on the board for just over a year now and will start a term as chairman next summer. My wife Anne and I are Co-Chairs of a group called Circle of Red (part of AHA), which is devoted to women’s heart health. We are honored to give back to the community that has been instrumental in providing the education and resources that helped save my life.
At the time of my SCA I was up to date on my annual health checks, I did not have any identifiable heart issues, and I was in great physical shape. My blood pressure and cholesterol levels were high but not dangerously so. I was training for my eighth marathon. I ran ten miles the day before in North Park. I was so proud of myself that I sent a selfie to my wife and kids. I was not doing anything stressful at the moment of the SCA, and yet out-of-nowhere the world went black and I woke up two days later in Westmoreland Hospital. I survived, and now I have an Internal Cardiac Defibrillator (ICD) implanted in my chest. I am grateful for every day because you just never know…
When asked, I suggest to people what can simply be defined with the G.O.R.E.D. acronym:
- Get your numbers (health).
- Own your lifestyle (exercise and diet).
- Realize your risk (family history).
- Educate yourself (and others).
- Don’t be silent.
I am excited to be a leader of the SparkPittsburgh Step Challenge. My new FitBit keeps me accountable, and I am proud to say that I surpassed 20,000 steps on my first day! I joined a Weight Loss Challenge at Covestro, which also started this week. I am the AHA Heart Walk Captain for Covestro, so I will be there on October 20th when the winning team for the Step Challenge is announced. I am looking forward to that and all of the steps in between!