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After being told she would never walk again, Gia Eckert just completed 5.1 miles for her She Believed She Could So She Did Virtual Race from Gone for a Run! We had a chance to catch up with Gia to talk about her race and her journey towards this incredible milestone!
Q: Can you tell us a bit about yourself and the health challenges you have faced this past year?
My last in-person 5k on August 5th, 2019, and I became extremely dehydrated. I woke up a few days later knowing something was wrong. The hospital admitted me and immediately started fluids and testing. My legs were constantly tingling, and I was quickly losing feeling in them.
After about 9 days, I fell in the bathroom. There I was, bare butt, laying on the bathroom floor yelling for the nurses. They got me back in bed, and my legs were done. I couldn’t walk. I couldn’t stand it. There was no feeling when the doctors stuck pins into my legs. I was paralyzed from my navel down and scared to death.
A neurologist finally figured out my thiamine was low, but they didn't know the status of my legs in recovery. I was in that bed for 31 days and then finally, I was transferred to a rehab facility.
Q: What did it feel like when you were told you wouldn’t be able to walk again?
When my doctor told me that she wasn’t sure of the prognosis of my legs, I was scared. My life changed right then and there. My doctor explained, "you might not regain full use. We just don’t know the damage." And with that, I thought to myself "I will do this. I cannot spend my life in a wheelchair." I just tried to stay brave and when I did start to regain some feeling, my mom would exercise and move my feet and legs.
Q: What types of things did your physical therapy consist of?
At rehab, I had to learn the basics. I worked on balance, standing, walking, and my gait. Here, I began the progression from wheelchair, walker, rollator to finally some cane use. In physical therapy, they put weights on my legs to do leg and ankle exercises, which helped build up my legs more.
One day my physical therapist put me on the treadmill, and I am sure I looked at her like she was crazy. I got on and was scared out of my mind! We continually used the treadmill more and more to work on my gait. Then, I graduated to the balance machine. This machine has you plant your feet and balance following a maze of dots around the screen. It was more of a video game, and I liked it!
Next, I moved onto the stairs, up and down, up and down. The goal was trying not to pull myself up using my upper body, but using my legs. I was rotated between all these activities plus the occasional different challenge of the day. My right ankle continues to be weakened from foot drop, so I still have a brace and AFOs.
Q: What did completing this race mean to you?
When I left rehab, I was able to walk with a cane. My celebration was getting tattoos of little feet. I began walking the dog, braces and all, a half-mile every day. Then I left the puppy at home and gradually increased my distance. I decided it was time to find a race I could do. The name of this race, She Believed She Could So She Did, drew me in. I did believe in myself! Now, it was just time to show how far I’ve come. I started walking that day and just did it!
Q: What is next for you?
The next goal I want to accomplish will be an obstacle run of some sort, I have signed up for one in August of 2021!
Thank you Gia for taking the time to talk with us and share your experience! We are thrilled to be a part of your journey and share your inspirational story.