Daniel Mullens, Living With Hemihypertrophy Disease

Everyone faces obstacles in their life. 

They can make you, or break you. The choice is yours.  

That’s part of what makes us human… the beautiful struggle. 

But what would you do if you found out your heart is TWICE the size as it should be?

That was a reality that APEMAN Daniel Mullens was faced with. 

“I lifted a lot in high school and always had a dream of becoming a StrongMan,” Mullens said. “I competed in every competition I could find, and still hold some records in Illinois and Indiana.”

But when Mullens finally was able to sign up for his dream of a StrongMan competition, they found something during his physical that would change his life forever.

“That’s when they found how big my heart was,” he said. “They diagnosed me with hemihypertrophy disease. I always knew there was something wrong – I had a size 22 left shoe and size 18 right shoe – but I didn’t realize it was my heart.”

Lifting and going on a strength plan, therefore, is nearly impossible. That didn’t stop Daniel. 

“My heart would act up after max days and sometimes the worst ones were sporadic,” Mullens said. “The worst episode I ever had with my heart was the day after a max-out day when I was in college. I woke up feeling a large amount of pain in my chest and ended up blacking out. I woke up terrified because my chest was covered in blackish/purple marks.”

Daniel’s heart was so big, it literally didn’t have enough room to function in his body. His heart ended up beating so hard it pushed his chest too far out, which caused internal bleeding. 

“Having hemihypertrophy disease always set me back a good amount,” reflected Daniel. “I never knew exactly how to cope with it properly, because having oversized bones and heart isn’t something that I can take medicine for. Doctors didn’t know what to do other than make me come in for checkups often.”

Upon diagnosis, Daniel was convinced to stop lifting. The fear took hold and he gained a substantial amount of weight. 

That wouldn’t last long, however. 

“I wasn’t going to let this beat me,” he said. “I never saw my situation as a negative. There’s something about fighting for yourself every day to bebetter and dobetter that makes you humble. The heart is just another muscle, and I’m out to prove that I have the biggest out there, physically and mentally. So I started lifting like a mad man again, doing whatever I can, but now I’m pushing myself to a whole new level. The look at the limitations of my body to be fictional; I keep pushing it past the limit on a daily basis.”

Daniel often thinks of the famous horse, Secretariat, and how nobody knew how he could be so unbeatable. That is, until he passed from old age and a biopsy confirmed his heart, like Daniel’s, was also twice his size. For Daniel, APEMAN is a constant reminder that we can conquer all, fight through anything, and overcome anything put in our path that’s slowing us down. 

Like a warrior going to battle, Daniel will fight until his last breath. 

“I’m out to prove that our heart can overpower the body with pure determination,” Daniel said. “I’ll prove it every day, and show that I can be the best even without trophies.”