Game On!

A medical mystery: Woman with disability runs 6 marathons

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) -- She lived a life built on being active, and in that one moment -- seconds after she was thrown from the seat of her scooter -- she feared it would never be the same. 

"All of a sudden I couldn't walk and do the things I loved," said Turner resident Wendy Garrett. "It was scary."

The coach, fitness instructor and runner immediately lost the use of her left leg. Eight years later, she still can't control her leg below her knee, but she hasn't let that stop her from running, something she couldn't imagine while she was lying on a street in Bermuda after the motor accident that left her with 2 spinal injuries for life. 

On Feb. 25, Garrett ran in the Tokyo Marathon, making her the first person in the world to run on foot and complete the 6 major world marathons while living with a spinal cord injury. The accomplishment earned her a finisher metal, a symbol of a medical mystery doctor-after-doctor had previously diagnosed as impossible. 

"It looks like ribbon and metal," she said while holding it," but it's a lot more." 

For 3 years after the accident, Garrett walked around in a big metal boot. It was big and clunky, but it allowed her to do cardio and walk normal. Without it, she walked with a limp, something she said was reminiscent of a Quasimodo gait. She had previously lived an active life; she aimed to do it again, without the limp. 

But every doctor she talked to diagnosed the same thing: she wasn't going to get the use of her leg back. She hoped for better news, but eventually the frustration and disappointment had reached a breaking point. She'd try one more doctor, and if the news wasn't good, she'd move on. 

Garrett got the news was she looking for. The doctor got her fitted for an orthotic. She wanted to run without the boot immediately -- the doctor recommended they try walking first.

Eventually, Garrett started "Forest Gump-ing it," as she called it. One mile turned to 2. And then more and more and more. She was running again, and she couldn't be happier. She decided to set her sights on the Portland Marathon, a feat reserved to be the conclusion of her running story. 

But her story had more to tell. She ran and qualified for the Boston Marathon under the mobility-impaired athletes category. She registered the next morning for it and started training for Boston, the first of 6 major world marathons she would over the next 4 years.

"That's how I accidentally became a marathoner," she said. 

Now, Garrett's accomplished something not many marathoners can say they've done -- all with 2 major spinal cord injuries. She said it's been a wild ride. 

"Whenever I'm running I get to think about everything that's happened, I remember more things," she said, "and I'm like, 'This is cool. This is amazing."

That ride isn't finished. Garrett said she now plans to run a marathon on all 7 continents; she's already checked off 3.


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