Before his health declined in the late 2000s, Bresee did yoga, lifted weights and walked several miles regularly. But post-surgery, a 5K was a lot for him. His plan was to start slow, breaking the walk into four parts. The first session went well. "On the second and third walks, I was building up steam," Bresee said.
"Afterward, he said he felt like he could have gone farther," his wife said.
The key, Bresee said, was developing a rhythm -- timing his steps to his breathing, using a count of four: sharp inhale on one; exhale two, three, four. It was a practice he had to hone while training his lungs how to breathe again. He often felt like he was breathing through a straw.
"The counting helps you breathe and suck through that straw," he said. "And the more you do it, the bigger that straw gets."
Heading for a transplant
Bresee was born with transposition, a condition of the great arteries whereby the positions of the pulmonary artery and the aorta, which carry blood out of the heart, are switched, causing the body to get too little oxygen. He required several heart surgeries as a child and spent a year of his youth in the hospital.
Happy to be together
Bresee participated in the Donate Life Run/Walk to raise awareness about the need for organ donation, but also to debunk stereotypes about transplant patients. "It's not just someone who smoked or drank too much," Bresee said. "It can be just a regular person who looks and acts like everyone else. It's important not to judge."
Two months after the walk, Bresee was ready to leave the hospital for the first time since his transplant. Nurses and doctors lined the hospital's halls and bid him farewell as music played.
After arriving at a nearby apartment his family rented to continue his ongoing care, Bresee enjoyed a steak and potato dinner, and was grateful to be able to spend time with his daughters, Blakely, 15, and Gretchen, 12.
Images, including top photo of Rand and Michelle Bresee, at the end of the Donate Life walk at Stanford Hospital, courtesy of the Bresee family.