Liebowitz argued against surgery, against a cardiologist's recommendation to perform a biopsy on Carvin's heart. Why not use the years of conditioning, the level of fitness that Carvin had attained? Why not see what this athletic body could do in this competition? Liebowitz prescribed medication—ACE inhibitors, which have been known to prolong the lives of heart patients—and advised 90 days of complete rest, with tests to be performed again at the end of that time.
Carvin went to bed and did not leave often. At first he slept 13 hours, 15 hours a day and took naps on the side. He ate, played video games, went back to sleep. This continued for about a month, until school began again and he took two courses, driving around the campus with a sticker for the handicapped on his car, returning to the apartment to sleep some more.
Somewhere in the second half of the 90 days he noticed a change. He didn't need to sleep as much anymore. He started looking at his skateboard. He started to look at his competition bike. His body was talking to him again.
By the 90th day, sometime that March, he didn't need the tests to tell him anything. He just knew.
The virus was gone.
"You know, this is nice, wonderful, but I see it in a whole different way," Judy Carvin said at the Tracy Caulkins Competition Pool in Nashville last Saturday, the first day of the summer Phillips 66 National Swimming Championships. "The important thing, really, is just that Chad is here, with us, not how well he swims. You go through what we've gone through—women would try to be encouraging, telling me things like, 'I know someone who had a transplant, and he lived for eight more years'—and it gives you a reality check in an instant. You realize what's really important."
But Chad Carvin is more than just here. Though he missed the Olympics and didn't return to intercollegiate competition during his senior year at Arizona, he made a large splash at February's spring nationals. There, Carvin won four events: the 200, 400 and 1,500 freestyles and the 400 individual medley. In nationals history, only two other swimmers, Olympic gold medalists Mark Spitz and Tom Dolan, won four individual events at one meet.
"The doctors have told Chad that there aren't any limits," Busch says. "He can train as hard as he wants. I say it's nothing short of a miracle that he's swimming."
The comeback continued in Nashville. Carvin finished second in the 200 freestyle on Saturday, a performance that qualified him for the U.S. team that will go to the World Championships in January in Perth, Australia. On Sunday he finished third in the 400 individual medley. He was expected to swim in two other events in the seven-night meet, which runs through this Friday, but his first event was encouragement enough. His time in the 200, 1:49.17, was his second-fastest ever. One year after the Olympics he missed, he had landed where he wanted to be.
It sometimes is a crazy, whimsical thing, this living. Up and down and up again. Crazy. You want something, really want it, and it's taken away. You adjust to that fact, accept it and—wait a minute—here you are. Crazy.