This is something that I wrote for my running group blog site,
the coach called it “Regina Triumphs at Marine Corps”
I ran my first marathon, the Chicago Marathon in October 2005 and
finished with a time of 4:50. Two months after running in Chicago,
I woke up in the Intensive Care Unit of Presbyterian / St. Luke’s
Hospital in Denver. I had contracted necrotizing fasciitis, more commonly
known as flesh-eating bacteria. No one knows how I got it. I went
to bed on a Monday night with a shoulder-ache that I attributed to
overdoing my swim workout that morning. I woke up in the middle of
the night with my left arm throbbing with pain that I knew wasn’t
due to muscle pain. Then I woke in the morning with the pain, a high
fever and throwing up. By 2:00pm my husband took me to the emergency
room. They diagnosed the necrotizing fasciitis and by 6pm, I had my
first of many surgeries in Boulder and later, in Denver. When I woke
up in the ICU on Christmas Eve 2005, two months after doing my first
marathon, I couldn’t even sit up without assistance, much less
I had a great team of doctors in Denver and by removing more and
more of my skin (the fascia) they were able to arrest this disease.
I also spent some time in the hyperbaric chamber to promote healing.
When it was done, I had a swath of diamond shaped skin missing from
my armpit to torso on my left side. I was also missing some skin from
my neck and to top of my chest. To replace the skin, the plastic surgeon
had to take skin from the top of my thighs to put on my chest. My
son called me Franken-mommie (with my permission) since I had so many
I was lucky with this disease. One man I know lost both his feet.
Another lost his arm and shoulder. I was diagnosed quickly and only
lost a lot of skin. But when I woke up in the hospital bed, I was
struck by the thought that I had just run a marathon two months before
and now I couldn’t even walk the three steps to the bathroom.
I got out of the hospital in the first week of January 2006 and went
home to recover and start physical therapy. The plastic surgeon who
did my skin grafts told me that I probably wouldn’t get back
full use of my left arm, my dominant arm, due to the locations of
the grafts and my armpit without further surgery. I took the rest
of January at home recovering and starting physical therapy and some
walking. I always walked in the same shoes that I had done the marathon
in. I had no further complications once I left the hospital. On February
1st, I went back to work.
By March 1st, I went back to running. I needed to start running because
I wanted to run the Bolder Boulder 10K – a race I’ve done
every year since moving to Colorado except for the year I was pregnant.
The recommendation from my running group (Fast Forward Sports) was
to be able to run 30 minutes several days a week. I was going to have
to work to get there before the training started. The first day I
went running, I didn’t even bother with running clothes. I just
changed into my running shoes and started plodding. I think that it
was only about a 10 minute run, but it was enough to get a little
sweaty and start breathing hard. I was so happy when I finished that
I almost started crying. After all I had been through with the past
few months, these feeling and little pains were so familiar and just
plain normal that it felt like coming home. I continued running and
rejoined Fast Forward and finished the Bolder Boulder 10K. Around
that time, thanks to a great physical therapist, I got full use of
my arm back. This amazed my plastic surgeon when I went in for a check-up.
With all my skin grafts and graft sites finally healed, I could also
go back to swimming.
I trained that summer of 2006 and did the Bike Tour of Colorado –
an annual 400+ mile 6-day bike tour through the Colorado mountains.
In October, I completed The Other Half Marathon in Moab, Utah. I was
back to full health and 2007 was going to be my year! Fast Forward
Sports offers training for triathlons and I was going to fulfill a
long-time goal of doing a half-ironman distance triathlon. To prepare
and train for it, I did a duathlon, a sprint triathlon, an Olympic
distance triathlon as well as returning to the Bike Tour of Colorado.
I completed the half-ironman distance in August 2007. While I was
training for the triathlons, friends were signing up for the marathon
training program. I was tempted, but also scared since my first marathon
hurt and I wasn’t sure that I wanted to experience that again.
I knew I was up to the training though. It would be a way to get closure
to this two years that started with the Chicago Marathon of 2005.
I am proud to say that I completed the Marine Corps Marathon on October
28, 2007. My time was 30 minutes faster than Chicago. The best part
was that I really enjoyed the race and I was just happy to be in a
marathon again. When I crossed the finish line, I nearly broke down
in tears because I felt so lucky and grateful to be where I was standing.