Spartanburg mom overcomes near-death to complete triathlon
As an athlete, inspiration comes from all sorts of places. A very potent source of inspiration is other athletes. Athletes whose stories are so remarkable, their zest for life so contagious, you just have to share their story. Brigitte Quinn of Spartanburg is just that kind of athlete.
Faced with physical challenges, Quinn has the courage to pursue her dream of one day completing an Ironman. She is on her way. After completing several triathlons of various lengths, Quinn is registered for a half Ironman. Quinn’s inspiration is heavily influenced by her faith. It is this faith that gives her a remarkable resiliency and a strength to persevere.
Athletics have played an important role in Quinn’s life. She was a competitive power lifter for 20 years until she suffered an injury to her back — an L5 S1 disc injury. It was a very common injury, treated with outpatient surgery. The surgery went well, but Quinn had an adverse reaction to her anesthesia that caused vomiting. The vomiting opened her incision site and she had to have another surgery. She continued to have complications and had a total of five surgeries. Though the last surgery was effective, Quinn developed a blood clot, a condition that was complicated by her Factor 5 clotting disorder. Her heart had swelled to five times the size of a normal heart. Due to the disorder, she was not a candidate for surgery and doctors had to use a medication drip to dissolve the clot. The drip was to take 72 hours. At 22 hours in, Quinn began bleeding and the drip had to be removed.
Doctors did not expect her to survive, but she did. All signs of the clot had disappeared. Quinn was able to go home and another difficult part of the journey began — rehabilitation. For two and half years, Quinn relearned how to walk. In May of 2017, she was released from rehab.
Quinn’s medical difficulties were far from over though. In July 2017, just two months after finishing rehabilitation for her back, Quinn was diagnosed with a Pleomorphic Adenoma, a non-cancerous tumor on the Parotid gland, a gland at the base of the skull. Because the tumor was causing symptoms of vertigo and had the potential to become cancerous, Quinn was faced with another dangerous surgery. On Oct. 29, Quinn had surgery to remove the tumor. Following the surgery, she had facial paralysis and hearing loss.
“I would look in the mirror and think, who is this woman?” she said. “But each day it was getting better.”
During the first six weeks of recovery, Quinn felt like she couldn’t do anything. She had a lot of time to think and pray.
“I felt like God was telling me that I needed to work on self discipline,” she said. So Quinn set about doing just that. She started with small things: making the bed each day, flossing each night, loading the dishwasher every night. As she worked on self discipline, she began to wonder how she would address health and wellness. It was during this time that she felt God impressing upon her a desire to complete an Ironman triathlon. Her doctor cleared her for training in January 2018, and she discussed her goal with her husband and three children.
Quinn’s kids were a bit surprised at the goal, since Quinn had never been a swimmer or a cyclist and had not run since before her back surgeries. Her family gave their blessing and Quinn began training in earnest. She completed her first triathlon, a sprint, April 28.
“Every time that I am on the bike or in the pool, I feel grateful,” Quinn said. “It is a miracle that I can do it. How can I not seize every day? It’s not just that I have been given a second chance! I have been given chance after chance. I just have to show up, be willing. God has given me a passion to live life to its fullest.”
Quinn says the lessons that she has learned has made the experiences worth it.