On July 4, 2012, Hillary Lockemer did what she always did. She went on a run. The young doctor felt a sharp, quick pang in her head before heading out, but it went away. A few minutes into her run, she got dizzy. Suddenly she felt “the walls closing in” and collapsed face first on the sidewalk.
After being rushed to the hospital, it was discovered that Hillary had suffered a brain aneurysm that resulted in massive bleeding in her brain and required immediate surgery. For the next two weeks, she lay in ICU with unbearable headaches and light sensitivity that left her barely able to function. Once home, her recovery remained difficult.
“I was physically exhausted and could barely even walk 50 feet without having to stop and rest. Initially I also struggled with getting out the correct words or thoughts, a symptom called aphasia that is common in patients who have had a stroke. Fatigue is something brain aneurysm survivors struggle with long term, and I certainly have days where I am inexplicably exhausted,” she says.
Physical activity seemed out of the question. Hillary recalls passing runners and crying, unsure she would ever be able to rejoin them. After a second surgery, she was finally being cleared by doctors and started slowly, determined to return to her beloved running.
“I didn’t want to push myself too hard. I was still scared that my aneurysm wasn’t completely healed and would often get light headed or dizzy.”
One year after her aneurysm, Hillary joined a local running group and completed her first 5K in late 2013. Recently she decided she was strong enough to do more, and signed up for the Rock ‘n’ Roll Raleigh Half Marathon in April.
“It’s a way for me to get back to something I loved doing from before the aneurysm and helped me feel like I was getting back to my “former” self. There are times during long runs that I still get a headache or light-headed, and it brings me back to the day of my aneurysm rupture, and I start to panic. And then I tell myself that the aneurysm is no longer a problem, and that running is the best way to keep it that way!”
Hillary says her goal at Rock ‘n’ Roll Raleigh is just to run the entire time, no matter how slowly. And of course, to finish!
“When I think of completing a half marathon less than two years after having a ruptured brain aneurysm, it seems impossible, but yet it is not,” she says. “I want others to be inspired to find the strength within themselves to do things they too thought impossible.”
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