"Do you know who we are?" My mom leans over me, her hand pushing the hair off of my forehead. "Do you know my name?" I lick my lips, semi-aware of what’s going on, but not really. "Don-na," I slur, not sure whether or not I am making any sense. It hurts to talk. I look around, trying to figure out where I am.
"Good, good, you're doing great," she says, still pushing my hair back.
A doctor, or a nurse maybe, comes up to me and asks whether I know where I am. I look around the room, dazed, and guess. "A hospital?" "Yes, good," she says, "the ER. You collapsed at the finish line."
I look down and realize I'm completely swaddled beneath a mound of sheets and blankets -- comfortably warm, almost cocooned, and completely naked underneath. I'm confused and sedated and don't quite feel in control of my body. Vaguely, I feel stuck - the blankets weigh a hundred pounds and melt me into the cot. Only later will I find out I had to be physically restrained; that in my delirium I had gotten, as the hospital notes say, "combative." I let my head sink back under exhaustion and sedative.
They soon start asking more questions.
"What's going on in the news today?" A nurse asks, "what's going on in the government?" I know I should be able to answer this, but can't quite find the right words. I look at my dad, standing a few feet away, backed up and standing against the white ER curtain. I know I should know the answer. I get frustrated. Nothing comes to me.
"Ummmm," I look around the room, at my dad's face, at the nurses, trying to find the right answer. "Mmmm..."
"That's okay, sweetie, you're fine," says my mom, "you're doing great."
I haven't seen my dad this scared, ever. Not even last year, when he picked up the phone and over the speaker we could hear that my brother had been wounded overseas, was unconscious and was being evacuated out of the most dangerous country in the world. He's not very good at hiding his concern.
"Do you know who our president is?" The nurse continues to ask me. There's an uncomfortable pause. About 15-seconds later, with definite uncertainty, I manage to stutter out "Obama."
And then another question, an easier one: what did you have for breakfast? A creature of habit and with my short-term memory more intact, I'm able to quickly respond with great detail: "two gluten free waffles with peanut butter." Yes, I'm careful to point out that they were gluten free. Great job, brain.
At some point -- I'm not really sure how much time has passed -- reality kicks in. I look to my dad, slurring my words, "Did I fin-nish?" My dad comes to me and says yes, “Yes, you did finish.”
I start to get agitated and for some reason my brain decides that I'm back at the finish line, in the med tent, and that I'm not done, that something happened. That I need to get back out on the course to run the final few feet I am unable to remember.
"Please don't lie to me!" I raise my voice, hurriedly looking from parent to parent and then to the doctors, "did I – did I finish?!" I can feel my legs moving, running, thrashing and mimicking a running motion under the covers, but don't know why or what was controlling them. "Don't lie to me... did I?!?" I remember pleading to my parents, repeating this over and over again, my legs "running" by some uncontrollable force, before they added more sedative to my IV.
"You're done, Maggie," my dad says as he strokes my head and the sedative starts to calm me down. "You don't have to run anymore. It's over."
I didn't know my name for nearly four hours. I had a temperature of 108.5 when taken into the med tent and would spend the next 24-hours overnight in the ICU. The last thing I remember is running down Palani, a few gasps for breath, my head feeling heavy and then it goes dark. I don’t remember anything until the conversation above, and even that is fuzzy and has to be filled in with details from my parents.
My mom saw me coming down the chute: I entered around 10:17 and wouldn’t cross the finish line until 10:23. To everyone whose video finish I ruined as Ironman live blacked out the finisher feed for the entire six minutes, I’m sorry.
Based on the photos, it looks like I come in strong into the chute, see one of the poles leading up to it and think it was the finish. You can see me smile, fist pump and then stop alongside the barricade. From there, my mom said that it looked like I was just talking to people and gripping onto the barriers. At some point people start to chant my name to get me toward the finish and so I try to hand-over-hand my way down the barricade but fall down at one point. I pull myself up, but cannot take a step forward. My legs are stuck beneath me.
One leg starts shaking uncontrollably, and then the other. Several spectators around my mom start to ask, “is she convulsing?” and “is she having a seizure?” At this point, an Ironman volunteer comes up to me in the chute and starts talking to me. Shortly after, they hold me up, and we start walking. I disappear around the corner and my mom starts pushing her way to the medical tent.
In my final photo, I’m ghost-white, eyes rolled back in my head, being carried spread-eagle by an Ironman volunteer and the Medical Director. I look like I could be dead.
My mom runs to the med tent area and starts asking about me but is blocked by a security guard in front of the barricade. He keeps referring her to the family waiting area but when she checks there, she can only find a woman whose husband had been pulled off the bike course over two-hours prior and she still had not received any more information. My mom tries to reason with the security guard.
He doesn’t let her past, citing the purse she was carrying and that he was “trying to prevent another Boston”. She hands him her small clutch, saying “here, you can keep this, keep my wallet, I'm going to see my daughter”. He then grabs her wrist, bruising it, before trying to drag her off. My mom then – and she’s really proud of this – sits herself down on the pavement and refuses to be moved until she gets more information.
Finally, four actual police come over to assist and agree that my mom can come to see me in the medical tent. When she tries to get up, the security guard is actually standing behind her, pressing down on her back. One of the policemen asks if she needs help, to which she responds: “I could get up myself if this guy would stop pushing down on me!” With the help of the police, she gets past the power hungry rent-a-cop and is allowed to come see me in the med tent.
In the med tent, I’ve already been ice bathed and stripped as they cut my kit off of me (goodbye, my favorite Rev3 kit and sports bra…) and am now covered in blankets and hooked to IVs. I am unresponsive when my parents ask if I knew who they were, and only able to respond with a dazed “whaaaat?” My mom and I recreated some of this in a stupid video here. Side note: because our family has a dark sense of humor, we have a new catch phrase, where if someone asks a stupid question, you can respond with the appropriate "whaaaaat?" response.
I’m taken to the hospital and several hours later “wake up” in the ER.
Ten feet. I collapsed less than ten feet from the finish. 140.59.
The next day Ironman Medical Director Dr. Bob Laird stopped by to check on me. It was such a touching gesture and I really appreciated him coming by but it broke my heart a little. He tells me about being there back when Paula had her own meltdown, "not too far from where you were," he reminisces.
The whole time I can only wonder why they left me in the finish chute for six minutes, smiling deliriously as I cooked my brain, heart, kidneys and liver for longer than I should have. More recent blood tests show that I most likely had a heart attack in those last few minutes, we're still not sure. Did they need someone stronger to carry me? Did they want to see me do it on my own accord? Could I have been the next Julie Moss, crawling hands and knees, promoting the "spirit" of Ironman? Six minutes. They're lucky I didn't die.
I distinctly remember Dr. Laird telling me, “while Mike Reilly might not have been able to say the words ‘You Are An Ironman”, you still are in my mind.” When he left, I cried for nearly twenty minutes.
I had several hours laying around in my ICU bed the next day before getting to go home. Without my phone and kind of numb to what had happened, I replayed the entire race in my head. I went through every detail that I could remember over and over and over again…except for those last few minutes where I can’t remember anything. The signs were not there. I had what I thought was the perfect Kona debut. And then I crumbled.
Later my dad came by, with my finisher medal, shirt, hat. Touching the medal made things feel a bit more real to me. Later, seeing the photos made it all even more real. I mean, how do you believe you did something if you can’t even remember it yourself?
But you know what? I might not remember it but all signs point to the fact that, yes, I am an Ironman.
While it was might not have been the finish I wanted, the rest of the day was pretty amazing. I also set a few records, being the only person at Kona 2013 to be admitted to the ER and only the 5th person in Kona history to get heat stroke. I think that last stat might be questionable but that's what I've been told.
Finally, I couldn't thank my Rev3 Team and all of our sponsors for getting me to the finish line: Quintana Roo for the ride that helped me to a new IM Bike PR, BlueSeventy for my PZ3TX and Googles, PowerBar for the most reliable nutrition, Pearl Izumi (still so bummed they cut my jersey and shorts off—most comfortable kit ever!), Normatec for keeping my legs happy (and my mom's... she bought the hip compression for herself at the Kona expo— can't wait to try those out!), Compex, Biotta Beet Juice and SBR Sports (love my Foggle and TriSlide!).
And, lastly and most importantly, Rev3 and Hillary—without this awesome team and Hillary's guidance, I know I wouldn't be where I am today. Step 1: Recovery. Step 2: Redemption!