You wanted the scoop on the death story… so here it is.
May 17, 2008. I died. Not just a figurative die, but a literal flat-line die. As you might remember from my previous post, I ran the Fargo half-marathon with my Dad. Despite not always being in shape, I have always been active. I was typically able to run 3-4 miles without much training thanks to years of putting in miles on the soccer field. In 2007, I noticed my Dad getting a little “Beach”-balley around the middle and I was still post-baby fat, so I suggested that we run a race together. He agreed… Sucker!
Spring Allergies… aren’t they the worst!? Well, that year, I had them bad. REALLY BAD! And thanks to my wonderful son who was 9 months at the time, I had to suffer through them without any help from the Westernized drugs those little mice so graciously gave their lives for. But this day was different. I wasn’t going to be nursing Miles much due to the race and probably wouldn’t have enough calories to make a ton of breast-milk anyway. SO DRUG ME UP! I didn’t take anymore than the recommended amount of whatever generic version of allergy medications I had access to… I PROMISE. This is what started it all.
Race morning was chilly. 55 degrees and PERFECT RUNNING WEATHER! I noticed right away in the morning that I wasn’t feeling well (not to mention I slept like crap!), so in went the medication. Here is my pre-race interview. My dad and I went to the starting line and got all ready to race. Anticipation and nerves were running high. I had never participated in an organized race before. I felt I was ready, having done my 11 mile run the week before. I was fully prepared to be my dad’s cheerleader… making sure he got across the finish line. Little did I know that those roles would be reversed.
Mile 3. I didn’t feel so well. I had the chills… EVERYWHERE. My arms were full of goosebumps and I didn’t feel quite right.
Mile 5. Saw the family cheering us on and dropped off some gear. Here’s a little video clip. Excuse the chub… I hadn’t met the awesome trainer Tim Pearson to get those “almost abs” yet. Let’s count this is a “before” photo. Someday, I’ll show the “after” photo.
Mile 7. Not getting much better at this point and I was drinking SO many fluids! I felt I couldn’t get re-hydrated no matter how many glasses of water or electrolytes I took. My Dad kept pushing me, telling me if he knew anyone who could push through hard stuff, it was me. I played soccer for 20 years. We pushed ourselves hard! 100+ degree heat, no shade, hours of “Indian runs” and sprints. You work through it. Your teammates help push you through it. I told my Dad, no matter what, make me keep going, and he did! I am thankful and you’ll see why later. Oh….a cliffhanger.
Mile 9. Things are bad. I remember running through the Fargo-Moorhead area, but not really. You wanna see 2 miles from death… here you go.
Mile 12. This where it goes black. I don’t remember much of anything after this mile. I remember seeing my sister in the crowd. I remember I threw some Mardi Gras beads to my niece Emily. I remember seeing the FargoDome but it was still so far away. Yep…don’t remember any of this. That is my last memory until 3 am.
Mile 13.1: DEATH! **disclosure** All this information is via word of mouth from my dad, husband and those who witnessed the event. Again, I don’t remember anything after mile 12.
I crossed the finish line and that’s when the chain of events happened. I was lucky to have an ER nurse at the end who saw something was wrong. She started towards me with a wheelchair. As soon as I stopped moving, I had two grand mal seizures. This led to cardiac arrest. Yep, you read that right. I had cardiac arrest and was brought to the medical tent. Three minutes of CPR were performed and got the old ticker back online. My dad was with me the whole time, not really sure what was going as everyone was moving so fast. Scott was called to the medical tent and my mom worriedly took care of Miles.
There was an ER nurse there who luckily remembered the training they had received prior to race day on heat related injuries. The year prior, the Chicago Marathon was cancelled due to excessive heat and Mark Knutson (director of the Fargo Marathon) thought it necessary to have the training even though Fargo is the coldest place on Earth (not a true stat, but it is in the top 5 US Cities). Before the staff started to cover me up with blankets, this nurse suggested taking my temperature. 106.7 degrees F. SHIT BALLS! Plans changed and they cut off my clothes which were now covered with blood and vomit after having CPR. The packed my body in ice, gave me paralyzers to prevent shivering and safely lowered my body temperature. All while my dad watched….EMBARRASSING!
Scott rode with me in the ambulance. He was surprised how “slow” they went. They told him they had everything to keep me alive in the ambulance so it’s better to get there safe. Makes sense…who knew! Arrived at the hospital and I’m sure a bunch of tests were performed. Diagnosis: HEAT STROKE! I wasn’t breathing on my own. They were unsure of my brain function due to the high temperature. My kidneys may not be functioning properly… oh the joys of death. They told Scott they weren’t sure how much brain damage I would have. They didn’t know how well I could breathe on my own when it was time to remove the breathing tube. They didn’t know if I might need a kidney transplant. My sister quickly did a Punnet square knowing full well she was probably the best chance donor. Scary stuff for my husband, my sister and my mom and dad.
The next time I remember anything is about 3am when I asked the nurses to let me call my mom. I asked her to come and brush my hair. Did she? You bet she did….a mother’s love. I remember the dissolved oxygen finger clippy that glows red and saying “E.T. phones home” over and over thinking I was the most hilarious person in the world. I remember being told that I was going to move to a recovery room and I got up and skipped down the hallway. SKIPPED! Nurses watched me with their jaws dropped, as I had died 15 hours before. It was like a night of drinking in college when you wake up the next day and say “what the hell happened last night?” but without the hangover. And I didn’t crave tacos.
Well, in the end it turned out fine. I have no brain damage except for the obvious. No residual heart issues proved by the myriad of tests I had. I am 100% healthy. Healthier than I’ve ever been. It turned out to be a fluke. A weird chemical cocktail of medications and electrolyte/water imbalance that ultimately prevented me from sweating thus raising my temperature. A led to B led to C led to D (DEATH). My dad pushed me hard and it crushed him. BUT it was good he did. If he hadn’t, I would have died on the race course instead of at the end with all of the awesome medical personnel that the Fargo Marathon had waiting at the finish line. The Fargo Marathon folks even brought my finisher’s medal to the hospital room because God Damn it… I EARNED IT! And if you are interested… I saw no light. Damn!
My doctors told me to never run again. I was told I had to have c-sections for every future pregnancy. Now, I’m not a good at being told I can’t do something. I still run races…longer (and harder) ones than that race. I run through obstacles involving electricity during Tough Mudders even though signs suggest otherwise. I had two VBACs (both 10.5lb kids) with ease. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t listen to medical professionals; that would be dumb. But you ARE in charge of your own body, you do know your own limits. Listen to yourself as much as to the professionals. And just make sure you have one hell of a life insurance policy and friends who pull you through the hard stuff despite previously dying.
So in short…How FAR will you GO? Me? I guess until I die… literally.