On Your Marc: 12/20

Change of heart

Donerik Black rides his BMX bike to a new beat

By Marc Katz

Donerik Black is still riding his BMX bike in local and national competitions, and winning some of them.

He won three national races in 2015, and now he’s 47-years-old and expects to win more, even though he sometimes has joint pain in his wrists, ankles, knees, and elbows. When that happens, he changes his medications a little or alters his workout regimen. Sitting on the couch feeling sorry for himself is not part of the process.

“I never thought I wouldn’t be able to do what I wanted to do,” says Black, including the time he spent at the Cleveland Clinic for 49 days, awaiting a new heart.

Oh yeah, the new heart. He had his old, damaged one replaced on Feb. 26, 2014. Long story short, he had a valve replaced, and a consulting doctor noticed an aneurism that had gone undetected, resulting in the need for a heart transplant—if a suitable heart could be found.

New hearts aren’t stockpiled on medical shelves, and Black had an additional hurdle to overcome, since he’s down one kidney. Black donated the other one to his father, Don.

I’m not as positive as Black. I had a tooth replaced and was afraid to eat for a year. Black had his heart replaced and couldn’t wait to return to the BMX circuit. This year, he went to Tulsa for the Grand Nationals and also participated in events in Georgia, Kentucky, and Tennessee. He’ll do it all again in 2017 and in between races at the local warehouse facility on Edmund Street in North Dayton.

He doesn’t race in a handicapped division. He does race age appropriate.

“At no point in time did I think, ‘This is going to suck,’” Black says. “I had positive people around me [including his wife Angie]. I knew how lucky I was. So far, I’m right on track.”

“He was like this before,” Angie says, who stayed positive through the process in order to keep up with Black. “His positive attitude rubs off. He always wanted to live life to the fullest.”

He takes 20-25 pills a day, most of them anti-rejection medications, and has reduced his visits to the Cleveland Clinic for checkups from monthly to every six months.

According to reports, there are 3,500 heart transplants done a year, more than half of them in the United States.

In his day job, Black is director of the small business development center at Wright State. Before that, he headed Unified Health Solutions and worked for the city of Dayton. He also edited the Dayton Urban News, a publication owned by
his father.

In keeping with his personality, he raves about what he does at WSU. “I love small business,” Black says. “I love working with young people. It’s a perfect job for me.” It also gives him weekends off, which he uses to travel the BMX circuit. “Just about every weekend, I go somewhere,” he says.

Black owns two BMX bikes, one about a year old and one, three-years-old. He’s not the type to buy a new bike every season, but trades out parts as he needs them. It’s easier, by the way, to trade out a bike pedal than it is to trade out a heart.

As you might imagine, tires are usually the first parts to go. Black says he goes through at least two sets a year, and we’re talking $20-$50 a tire. “I’m not as hard a rider as some,” Black says. “I’ll keep [a part] going until it’s no good. I’ll probably get a new bike next year.”

As for himself, he opens up a big smile, which is difficult to differentiate from his normal face, which seems set in a big smile. He said he drinks plenty of water, exercises, and gets enough sleep. “If I’m breathing heavy,” Black says, “it’s because I’m out of shape; it’s not because of my heart. The more you exercise, the better you are.”

He exercises. He works. He participates, and he has fun. A nurse at the Cleveland Clinic suggested he wear a pink tutu once his heart operation was complete and considered a success. He wore it, although it doesn’t match anything else he is wearing, especially the red sneakers.

Black made his choice. He’s living, so he’s going to live. “I met a guy at the Nationals who is 82 [and still competing],” Black says. “As long as you can balance on a bike and get over a hill, you can race.”

The views and opinions expressed in On Your Marc are the views and/or opinions of the author and do not reflect the views and/or opinions of the Dayton City Paper or Dayton City Media and are published strictly for entertainment purposes.

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Columbus-born Marc Katz had a 44-year newspaper career, 41 of those years covering sports, 40 of them at the Dayton Daily News. He now blogs at KatzCopsNSports.com. Reach Dayton City Paper sports writer Marc Katz at MarcKatz@DaytonCityPaper.com.

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