Three years ago this month, Beth Thorp suffered a brain seizure that paralyzed the right side of her body. But today, the ultra-determined Carlsbad resident plans to finish the Tri-City Medical Center Carlsbad Half-Marathon.
Thorp, 57, is one of the "Lucky 13," a baker's dozen of former Tri-City Medical Center patients chosen each year for six months of free fitness and race training and free entry fees for the 13.1-mile race.
"Lucky 13" trainer Paul Carey hand-picked this year's 13 team members from about 40 applicants. The team includes men and women ages 34 to 69 recovering from heart attacks, cancer, back and leg injuries and obesity and diabetes-related health problems. But a sad back story isn't enough to make the team, Carey said.
"The common thread among this year's team members is gratitude and joyfulness," he said. "They're all fighters and team players. They're ready to transform and change their lives by pushing themselves to find out what they're made of."
Thorp's brain injury wasn't the first time she and her husband, Brad, had dealt with great adversity. In November 2008, the couple buried their 18-year-old son, Mitchell, after an excruciating five-year medical odyssey that maxed out their insurance, emptied their bank account and led them to specialists all over the country. The cause of his illness was never diagnosed.
To find purpose in their grief, the couple gave back to the community that had supported them during Mitchell's long health battle. In 2009, they launched the Mitchell Thorp Foundation, which each year provides more than $250,000 in support and counseling to the families of children with life-threatening illnesses.
Thorp runs the foundation full-time and, as a lifelong athlete, she always participates in the foundation's major fundraiser, a 5K run/walk that returns to Carlsbad on Feb. 3. The 2015 event was just weeks away when she said she woke up in the middle of the night feeling as if she'd been electrocuted.
Doctors at Tri-City found a 5-centimeter meningioma tumor in the left lobe of her brain. It was noncancerous but the pressure it created in her brain caused the seizure that left the right side of her body numb.
Over the next five months, Thorp spent six hours a day in rehabilitation to teach herself how to walk again, feed herself and grip objects. It would be two years before she could drive again or recover most of her cognitive function and much of the numbness remains.
"It took a lot of recovery to get my body out of the trauma it had experienced," she said.
Then, last year, she ran into Carey at a street fair and he suggested she apply for the Lucky 13 program. Carey said he wanted her on this year's team because she's so busy doing things for others, she never does anything for herself.
"The fact that she's still here today and so passionate about life, I can't think of a better person to have on the team," he said. "She just shows up and does what she needs to do and she doesn't complain."
The Lucky 13 meet two nights a week for fitness training at Tri-City Wellness Center in Carlsbad. On Saturdays, they get together for a group walk or run.
After each year's race, members join the Lucky 13 Alumni Club, who meet regularly for fitness and social events. Carey said that the team dynamic has contributed to a high race completion rate among members. Except for a few trainees who were forced to drop out of the race due to heart and other health issues, Carey said that all of the members he has trained have crossed the finish line.
Because her recovery is still under way, Thorp will be walking the half-marathon course with her husband, Brad, and a few others. She admits she still has a long way to go in her healing and she's nervous about finishing the race today, but she doesn't allow herself to wallow in pity.
"I've been through a lot of things in life and I have a deep faith. It's taught me to pick myself up and keep going," she said. "For me, there's no sniveling allowed."
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