August 4, 2006

My running saved my life

In the evening of May 19, 2004, my wife and I were in an automobile accident. I was taken to a hospital and checked for injuries. None were found, and I was released from the hospital. Two days later I was back in the hospital as a "code blue" emergency. My ribs were broken during the accident, and they punctured my lungs. When I was admitted to the Intensive Care Unit, my oxygen level was very low. And, while in the ICU, I developed a serious case of pneumonia.

I was in the ICU for four weeks and was unconscious for most of that time. My church leader visited me even though I was unconscious and didn't know he was there. He asked a nurse about my chances for survival, and she said, "He doesn't have any. Unless he has a strong body, he won't make it." Twice during the four weeks my family was called in because I wasn't expected to make it through the night. The first time my family was called in, my wife was in a different hospital recovering from her injuries and couldn't come to my hospital; her brother went to her bedside while my children came to mine.

Thanks to the grace of God, the skill of the hospital staff, and to my strong body as a runner, I did make it. I mention my strong body as a runner, because after I left the ICU, I went to a different hospital for therapy. The first time I tried to stand by myself, I could only do it for two seconds. I had to learn to walk: first just standing until my legs could support my body, then using a wheel chair, then a walker, then a cane, and finally by myself. During my 10 days in therapy, when a new nurse would come into the room, she would say, "So, you're the runner."

When I left the hospital I couldn't walk up stairs very well and needed a banister so I could pull myself up the stairs. During a month of home therapy at my sister-in-law's house, my wife and I took daily walks and were walking a mile when we went to our own home. A week after arriving home, I went for my first run and could only go 1/8 mile before I had to stop. I was a former marathoner and was running about 15 miles a week when the accident occurred, and now I could only run 1/8 mile. But, I was alive!

During the next year, I had surgery for a double hernia, 10 surgeries for very large Basal Cell skin cancers, and my gall bladder removed. That year was not easy, but I continued to run each week except for a couple of weeks after each surgery. During the two years since the accident, I went from a run of 1/8 mile to four runs a week, totaling 30 miles per week, the longest run being 13 miles. In two weeks, on August 19, 2006, I will run the Great Salt Lake Half Marathon from Clearfield, Utah to Antelope Island in the lake (no, this isn't a triathlon, and I'll be running on a causeway rather than swimming). Hopefully in 2007 I'll run another marathon, and my goal is to run the Boston Marathon in 2011 if I can qualify. I will be 75 in that year.

I just added an essay to my religious site in which, after giving the information that I've given above in this post, I discuss the impact of the accident and my recovery on my spiritual life. If you are interested in religion as well as in running, you are invited to read the essay at

http://www.shire.net/mormon/funeral.html

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