Near-Death

Near-Death Experience Births Passion to Run

As every runner toes the start line, within them resides the story that carried them there. Those stories are made up of moments that culminate in milestones.

The history of the Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon Series is made of moments and milestones created by runners just like you. In honor of our 20th anniversary celebration, we invite runners to share their most memorable running moments with us.

This is the story of Nicholas N. from Washington, DC.

Runner’s Near-Death Experience Births Passion to Run

November 4, 2013, had been a hectic day for Nicholas Nguyen. Living in Washington, D.C., the then 25-year old spent the majority of his day at the non-profit office where he worked. The day flew by as he finalized plans to deploy to India, where he’d soon lead an emergency humanitarian response team supporting Cyclone Phailin that hit in early October. By 6:00 pm., he was out the door and on his way home. He wasn’t home too long before he left to go for a run. Born and raised in Burbank, California, he had recently relocated to D.C. after graduate school. He picked up running when he moved to the city as a way to explore his new home and meet new people. Although his original plans included running with a friend, he opted for a rain check in light of the hectic work day.

Around 7:00 pm., shortly into Nguyen’s run, he was struck by a stolen vehicle fleeing local police. The accident fractured his skull and left him lying unconscious. An army of 24 individuals witnessed the horrific hit-and-run. They came to Nguyen’s aide until an ambulance arrived. It then transported him to the MedStar Washington Hospital Center.

Just moments into his admission to intensive care, emergency-room doctors determined emergency brain surgery was his best chance of survival. Due to the fractures to his skull and hematomas pooling in his brain, he faced 10% survival odds. Miraculously for Nguyen, the emergency surgery was a success and saved his life. Furthermore, he’s fortunate to not require a second surgery, which is common in the majority of traumatic brain injuries.

Four days after the accident, on November 8, Nguyen regains consciousness and awakens. Thirteen days pass before he regains most of his memory. During those 13 days, he attempts to run away from the hospital six times, tries to return to work, and awakens, thinking he’s back in college with friends from Spanish class in town visiting. At one point, he had awoken thinking he was an employee of the Los Angeles Lakers, working closely with Kobe Bryant.

Then the date on the calendar reads November 30. Almost four weeks have passed since the accident. Nguyen is finally released from MedStar as an outpatient. He undergoes five months of rehabilitation before he’s able to return to work.

Nicholas Nguyen’s story is nothing shy of a miracle, and he knows it. Only 45 days after the accident, he was back running again. His mother and father were incredibly worried when he stated he intended to continue running. However, those fears quickly gave way to pride and understanding when they saw running was now his celebration of life.

Nguyen hasn’t always been a runner. Prior to the accident, his longest logged run was 10 miles. When asked why he chooses running, he offers the following: “Because of the fact that I continue living after nearly losing my life while running, the ability to continue to run after the accident is my own personal celebration of life. Each time I run, I am able to celebrate life.”

Near-Death

Since the accident, Nguyen has been very busy running. Exactly 364 days after his accident, he ran the TCS New York City Marathon on November 3, 2014, with a time of 4:49:30.

“With this method of celebration to life forever marked, especially marked by the forever head scar, I wanted to cherish life by running my first marathon as a one-year celebration.”

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Now it’s 2017. Using his horrific accident to fuel his passion to run, Nguyen continues his quest to log more miles to celebrate life and give back. He is fundraising for non-profit MedStar Washington Hospital Center, which he credits with acting swiftly and thoughtfully to save his life. This year, he looks to celebrate his 3-year anniversary by running Rock ‘n’ Roll style. First, he plans to run the marathon at the United Airlines Rock ‘n’ Roll Washington DC Marathon and ½ Marathon on March 11. Next, he’ll run the marathon at the Suja Rock ‘n’ Roll San Diego Marathon & ½ Marathon on June 4. Finally, he’ll run the marathon at the Rock ‘n’ Roll Savannah Marathon & ½ Marathon on November 4. That’s three marathon events in one calendar year, all in a celebration of life.

We salute Nicholas Nguyen for his fearless attitude.


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