I came across Courtney Moose’s story on Facebook somehow last spring, but it took a while for us to connect and get her (amazing) story out there. I’m so glad we can finally share it.
A 37-year-old mother of two and family practice doctor in Brandon, South Dakota, Courtney also calls herself an on-and-off-again runner since college. “Life is busy,” she says, “I got married after my first year of med school, had my daughter first year of residency, then had my son less than a year after I started my practice. I kept running here and there, kind of in spurts.”
In May of 2009, Courtney ran a 10K with her friend Stacy, who convinced her to train for a half. They set their sites on the Omaha Half in September 2009. “On July 26 we ran our first 10-miler and were so proud of ourselves,” she says, “We felt that we were actually going to be able to do this.” Unfortunately, she would not have a chance to cross that finish line.
Two days later after her victorious ten-miler, as she was heading home from work for her afternoon off, her Yukon got t-boned by a semi that ran a red light at 50 mph. It smashed right into her door. The result? 23 fractures including all 7 cervical vertebrae, 2 thoracic vertebrae, and 4 pelvic fractures; many internal injuries that caused her to spend 5 hours in surgery that first afternoon; and 13 weeks of wearing a halo.
Three years later, she reflects on that time on her life--and how she came out the other side.
How did running save your life? I had severe lung contusions, among other issues, and was on a ventilator for 10 days. I also developed pneumonia a few days after the accident. Things were not looking good. That is when the trauma surgeon who took care of me told my husband that running had probably saved my life; my lungs and heart were so strong from running that they were somehow managing to continue working despite the almost fatal lung injuries.
What was the hardest thing about your recovery? When I realized just how bad things were. One day after I was moved to the inpatient rehab floor, I was lying in bed and the phone in my room started ringing. A phone rings, and you answer it, right? Unless you have 23 fractures. I counted 25 rings and I could not get to the phone, which was a whole 2 feet from me. I simply could not get there. I remember thinking that less than a month earlier, I had run 10 miles, and now I could not get to the phone that was 2 feet from me in 25 rings. How in the world was I ever going to get back to taking care of myself, let alone my kids and my house, and running? That was a dark moment.
Do you remember your first run back? I got the OK to start running again in January, 6 months after the accident. Of course, January in South Dakota is not ideal outdoor running conditions. My first runs were on the treadmill in my basement, and on the track at the gym. Not the most beautiful of scenery, but I was running!
Did you make it to that half? Yep. I ran it in September of 2010, then ran the Quad Cities Marathon in September of 2011. If you asked me before my accident about running a marathon, I would have said “NO WAY.” But the accident completely changed my outlook and running became much more a part of me and who I am. As I crossed the finish line, my first thought was: Take that semi! I called my husband shortly after I finished and then texted the orthopedic surgeon who placed the halo, fixed my terrible arm fracture, and dealt with my pelvic fractures to thank him for all he did to get me there.
What’s up next? The Chicago Marathon in October. I’m hoping to beat 3:59:04, my time for the Quad Cities Marathon.
What’s your perspective now on running? Little did I know in May 2009 what I really was training for. It wasn’t a half marathon. When I began to realize how close I had come to dying, and that running probably saved my life, I knew I had to get back to it. After 6 weeks in a wheelchair, 6 more weeks on crutches, and 13 total weeks in a halo, I got back to life, and running became more important to me than it ever had been. Thanks to running I’m here to see my kids grow up!