Inspiration: The Doctors Delgado

Today I’m starting a new series about people who inspire me. Most of the time this is likely going to be someone that reminds me what I’m attempting to achieve, and that any achievement is possible with hard work.  This will usually be someone in the public eye, be it a runner, an athlete, an actor, a politician, even a fictional character (odds are there will be a Batman or Flash post sooner or later). From time to time I will discuss those who inspire me in my day to day life, like my wonderful girlfriend Alysha, who is always supporting me in my goals while fighting for her own; or my Dad who at 71 is regularly going on hikes and long (and I do mean long) bike rides.  Inspiration is everywhere, but most people don’t tend to focus on it, they tend to focus on the distractions that are keeping them from their goals.

(C) Mayfield Clinic Blog

Alison Delgado competes in the 2012 Flying Pig Marathon
Image (C) Mayfield Clinic Blog

Today’s inspirations are Dr. Alison Delgado and her Husband Tim. Alison was the focus of a story by Nancy Averett in the June 2012 issue of Runner’s World magazine. She recovered from a nearly life ending injury in October 2010 to run a new PR at the 2012 Flying Pig Marathon on May 6th. See their story and why it inspires me after the break.

Even without the injury Alison would be a decent inspiration for any runner, back in 2005 just after finishing college, she ran the Flying Pig Marathon (her first 26.2) in 3:03:52 and won the race. She was a life time runner at that point, but finishing your first marathon is a huge achievement, let alone winning it! The Runner’s World article didn’t have much about the time between that Race and October 2010, but from what I could find on Marathon Guide, being in med school during the intervening years kept her from running much (which is to be expected). She did the Columbus Marathon in 2006, and the Flying Pig again in 2009, never achieving the speed she had in the first race. In Early 2010 she married Tim Delgado, also a doctor, a cyclist, and pretty dang inspirational as you shall see.

On October 16, 2010 their lives would change drastically. Ms. Averett describes  the accident:

GIVEN THE unseasonable warmth of that day, Alison Delgado, who had just worked 13 days straight as a pediatric resident at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, couldn’t wait to get outside and work out. Instead of running, though, she decided to ride her bike. Cycling was really Tim’s sport. He’d coaxed Alison into it after they first started dating four years earlier and had even proposed to her after they both completed a grueling ride up a Colorado mountain. Alison preferred running, but she’d developed a passion for cyclocross, an event that reminded her of cross-country. Because she had a race coming up, she decided to go for a long ride, 30 miles, heading southeast from her congested urban neighborhood toward the leafy suburb of Anderson Township.

She was cruising down a long hill, hugging the right curb of Corbly Street, a major thoroughfare, when a driver coming the opposite way began a left turn onto Berkshire Club Drive. Alison entered the intersection just as the driver swung into the turn. First came the squeal of brakes, then the sickening thud of a body, Alison’s, slamming into the car frame, before catapulting over the roof and landing with a horrifying thump on her back. In an instant she had broken several vertebrae in her neck, jaw, clavicle, sternum, bruised her heart and lungs and, worst of all, torn an artery in her brain. Unconscious on the pavement, she gurgled and choked as blood pooled in her airways. Drivers rushed from their cars. Someone called 911.

Across town, Tim was on duty in the ER at University Hospital when a call came over the radio:

“AirCare 1 and Pod Doc, request for a flight from Mercy Anderson coming back to University Hospital.”

“Pod Doc copies,” Tim responded, then hustled to the elevator that would take him to the hospital’s rooftop. He was on call that afternoon to ride on the hospital’s medical helicopter, ferrying patients from other hospitals back to University—the only facility in the region with the equipment and doctors to treat serious trauma victims. As a second-year resident in emergency medicine, Tim had been chosen for the flight program because of his ability to remain calm under pressure, critical during a helicopter ride when patients are often clinging to life.

Soon he was soaring over the city, full of adrenaline, thoughts racing with emergency medical protocols. Minutes later, the helicopter landed in the parking lot of Mercy Anderson, a small hospital 12 miles from downtown Cincinnati. Tim rushed inside where a doctor briefed him on the patient, a female cyclist who’d been hit by a car and suffered a severe head injury.

The woman’s blood pressure was high and her heartbeat slow—several times it had dipped to just 30 beats per minute—and there were indications of brain swelling. She was in a coma and had scored a 5 on the Glasgow Coma Scale, a test that measures a patient’s responsiveness to various stimuli. A normal GCS score is 15; a 3 often means the person is in a vegetative state.

Tim glanced at the woman. Her head was cushioned between two blocks with a cervical collar around her neck to hold it steady. A breathing tube was inserted in her mouth. He noticed her blue cycling jersey, then saw the “Team Hungry” logo on her shorts. That’s my cycling team, he thought. There were only two women on the team. One of them was Ali, his bride of five months. His heart began to pound. Her face was bloodied, her jaw twisted. Please don’t let it be Ali, he thought as he glanced back up.

(c) Cincinnati Enquirer

Alison Delgado is photographed at University Hospital on Oct. 18, two days after her accident. She didn’t awaken from a coma until Oct. 22. / (C) Cincinnati Enquirer

But, of course, it was his wife.  The next few minutes played out like a scene from a movie (or an episode of ER), Tim realizing it is Alison, and telling the nurse that the patient is his wife,  A nurse, knowing that he can’t effectively treat his own wife calling for another doctor, and Tim just staying by her side as she lay unconscious during the helicopter ride back to his hospital.  Initially Tim’s colleague Dr. Brian Stettler, let him know the prognosis didn’t look good: as a result of the injury to her brain an aneurysm (the ballooning of a blood vessel) had formed, and burst in her brain. Amazingly, the concussion she had actually stopped the bleeding, but if the swelling from the concussion got worse it could cut off circulation and cause a stroke.

Luckily that didn’t happen and a few days later she woke up, but a full recovery wasn’t expected, the doctors felt she’d be functional, but might not be able to resume pursuing her passion for running, or her career in medicine.  It took a few days for it to sink in for Alison how much this might alter her life, and it really hit her when her father came in with an old running buddy.  She broke down crying.

 Trying to diffuse the moment, Terry [her father] borrowed the Tom Hanks line from Alison’s favorite movie, A League of Their Own. “Crying?” Terry said. “There’s no crying in recovery!”

Just like that the tears stopped, and Alison’s eyes narrowed. The look, so familiar from Alison’s teenage years, thrilled Terry. “When I saw that,” he said, “I knew she was going to be okay.”

After a month of rehab, and a procedure to hopefully alleviate the aneurysm and prevent another burst, Alison got to go home, with the okay to work her way back to more strenuous activity.  But only 3 days after returning home her aneurysm burst.  This led to a series of “clipping” procedures and when all was done she’d lost 20 pounds, and was very weak.  At first she needed Tim’s physical support just as much as emotional, he held her hand as she did lunges, but she built back her strength.  By March 2011 the doctors cleared her to run, and soon she was back to running every day.

As the year went on she trained and she got stronger, and faster, all while jumping back into her intense medical residency. She PR’d a 5k (18’39”) and by January she decided that she was going to do the 2012 Flying Pig Marathon.  She trained hard (by March she was running 70 mile weeks) and it paid off.  A little over a year and a half after the accident that nearly killed her, Dr. Delgado ran the Flying Pig, placing 4th and setting a new PR for herself at 3:01’34”.

(C) CNN

Alison and Tim Delgado during her Physical therapy (c) CNN

The story of her journey from the brink of death, to the best running shape of her life inspires me greatly.  It makes the little road bumps I face in training (which I’ll get into in more detail another day) seem inconsequential.  Also inspiring is the love and support Tim showed her during her recovery.  Not only did he literally support her during the early days of her recovery (Seen in this video at Cincinnati.com), but later on rather than being overprotective and discouraging her from being too strenuous, he bought her a GPS watch for Valentines Day to help her track her runs.  Alison is the kind of athlete I strive to be: able to overcome any obstacle  to succeed, able to take what life throws at you and use it as fire for victory; and Tim is the kind of husband I will strive to be: loving, caring, supportive, with such a strong belief in the woman he loves that he will do anything to help her achieve her goals.

Let me know what  you think about the idea of these “Inspiration” stories in the comments, and let me know who (or what) inspires you.  I also suggest you all go read the original Runner’s World article The Reanimation of Alison from which all the quotes in this post originated. Even re-reading it while working on this blog post I got a little teary eyed.

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One response to “Inspiration: The Doctors Delgado

  1. Pingback: Inspiration: Oscar Pistorius | Geb Brown

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