FIRST HALF MARATHON SINCE FAINTING AT LAST YEAR’S RACE
Jessica Sanders unknowingly suffered from Lyme disease and passed out while running the Soaring Wings Half Marathon last year. She plans to take on the course again next Saturday.
“When I came to, I was in an ambulance on my way to Conway Regional,” she said. “My memory of that time is very foggy.”
Sanders is a physical therapist at Conway Regional.
Lyme disease is a bacterial infection transmitted by ticks. Symptoms can mimic the flu and include stiff neck, chills, fever, swollen lymph nodes, headaches, fatigue, muscle aches and joint pain.
Eighty percent of individuals suffering from Lyme disease will have a rash resembling a bull’s-eye around the infected area, Dr. Brandon Thurow of Throneberry Family Clinic in Conway said. But, some cases never form a rash.
Sanders never formed a rash and said she did not recall being bitten by a tick. She said it wasn’t unlikely that she was bitten, because she spends a lot of time outdoors.
Thurow said Lyme disease symptoms can seem very generic and that they can progress slowly. It’s important to get checked if you notice these symptoms over an extended period of time.
“There are so many different things [Lyme disease] can affect,” Thurow said. “In general, I would say if you feel abnormally fatigued, or are having muscle or joint aches or neurological issues you can’t explain or that aren’t normal for you, it needs to be looked at. It may not be Lyme disease but does need to be checked into.”
Sanders is an avid runner and also plays softball.
Sanders said she began to feel disoriented after the first four miles of the 2014 Soaring Wings Half Marathon and doesn’t remember anything about the last three miles she ran.
She has not revisited the location since the incident.
She said she is excited and nervous for the race Oct. 24 and has focused on improving her distance rather than time in her training.
After passing out during the race, Sanders was taken to the Conway Regional Emergency Department and received several tests, including blood work, a chest x-ray and CT exam.
While everyone at the hospital was “sweet” to Sanders, the process was frustrating because “every test they performed came back negative,” she said. Sanders was referred to a cardiologist, where she received additional tests on her heart as well as an ultrasound and a two-week holter monitor. Because her results continued to test negative, Sanders said her doctors dismissed the incident as a fluke accident due to the hotter temperatures that day and gave her the ‘OK’ to begin running again.
The first few weeks following the incident, Sanders said she’d felt “fine” but quickly noticed increased difficulty when she returned running and would become exhausted for days after running one mile. A friend referred Sanders to Thurow, who immediately ran more blood work on Sanders for closer examination.
Sanders did not have a primary care doctor because she’d always been “very active and healthy and didn’t have the need for one,” she said.
“The weeks leading up to my diagnosis [after passing out] and the first few months after were some of the darkest days of my life,” she said. “At times I really thought I was dying. From the extreme fatigue, muscle aches, shooting migraines and foggy memory, it was like my body was attacking itself. So going from being a very active person, to being unable to walk across my house without getting wiped out was a drastic life change.”
During her treatment under Thurow, Sanders was given “strict orders for no activity” until she was cleared for light activity and made changes to her diet, she said. She said she used her knowledge as a physical therapist to develop a fitness routine that was not too strenuous.
Sanders said she secretly set a goal to participate in the 2015 Soaring Wings Half Marathon months ago after she’d completed her first mile since the incident in March. She didn’t tell a lot of people at the time because she was unsure of the reality of her goal.
“I knew that if I over-did it, I was at a high risk for relapse,” Sanders said. “When I first started running back in March I secretly set a goal that I was going to be able to do it. I didn’t really tell that many people about it at the time. It’s definitely a blessing to be able to get back into running.”
Thurow said Sanders’ motivation and physical therapy knowledge helped her to progress and heal quickly.
“I’m excited and proud of how far and quickly [Sanders] has progressed,” he said.
Sanders said she was thankful for her coworkers’ assistance at work and thanked God for the progress she’s made. She also said watching her patients overcome more severe obstacles helped motivate her.
While Sanders said she still feels tired she has noticed she has much more energy over the past two months. She said her memory has improved but that she has a difficult time paying attention.