Just five months after being in a coma hooked up to a ventilator, Doug Whipple, won his age group at the Race For Resources 10k. After the race he commented, “That finish line was symbolic–it put the whole health scare behind me and began a new life.” Doug’s official time was 45:49 which placed him first in the M50-59 age group. [Full Results]
This miraculous turnaround is even more incredible than you think. Doug gave us permission to share his story adding, “We read too many scary articles about running and I believe people need to know that running far more often has huge health benefits.” To read his frightening ordeal below and to think that he’s already setting his sights on improving his race times is unreal. After all, it was the running and training plans that potentially saved him…
Training Back To Life
At the end of May, I had a complete medical emergency due to Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever (empirically diagnosed, the test came back negative). As you may know, this is a potentially fatal tick-borne disease. The bacteria triggered all kinds of secondary problems, all of which converged on me at once, including acute hypoxemic respiratory failure, pneumonia, hyponatremia, hypokalemia, high fever, seizures, and acute encephalopathy caused by severe brain swelling. Yet I survived and bounced back quickly, thanks to great, timely medical attention and OUTSTANDING PHYSICAL FITNESS.
I’d be dead if it weren’t for my training, which is why I’ve been leaning toward getting back into it even if I’m running on the treadmill and slowing things down. I collapsed on my bedroom floor, coughing up blood, sweating like crazy, incontinent, going into respiratory failure, severe brain swelling from the infection, and with rashes all over my face and body. When the EMTs arrived and hooked up their monitors, and they saw my vital signs dropping. That’s when they were commenting to the family member and handy man who found me that they expected me to “code” right there. You can imagine the scene. But then they said nope, he’s not going to code as my vitals stabilized and began to climb back. It went like that for a few minutes, I guess, and they said wow, anyone else would have coded. Because I was so gravely ill, they called the fire department and they took me out a third floor window, then rushed me to the hospital.
Apparently, the survival rate for acute hypoexemic respiratory failure is low, and when you add in all the other problems I mentioned, the ventilator, and by the way also a staph infection, someone getting hit from so many angles at once would normally have a slim chance at best. But the doctors in the hospital kept telling my brother I was in great physical condition and that was a big plus in my favor.
Most people would have needed weeks in a rehab center, they said, but they sent me home–with a walker. I was able to walk on a treadmill a few days after coming home. There’s a distance running success story for certain! Thrilled I chose to be a competitive athlete as opposed to just going to the gym to be fit, which would not have been enough in this case I think.