NEW YORK DAILY NEWS
Friday, October 2, 2015, 4:29 PM
This mother is running for her life.
Merideth Gilmor will attempt to finish the TCS New York City Marathon next month, exactly one year to the day after a massive stroke almost killed her.
“I would consider Nov. 1, 2014 the worst day of my life,” says Gilmore, 39, from Wilton, Conn. “So I thought, how do I change this around to make it the best day?”
She decided to run the 26.2-mile race across the five boroughs – her first marathon – to take back her life after her medical emergency almost took it away from her.
But the road to recovery hasn’t been easy. Gilmore still suffers some physical deficits. Her left arm is still completely numb, which makes tying her shoes or pulling her hair back into a ponytail major feats of strength.
“I’m going to run the marathon without feeling my left arm at all, which is weird, but you gotta do what you gotta do,” she says. “You cannot let the stroke win.”
The active mom and founder of Modern Global Communications, which represents tennis ace Maria Sharapova and NFL quarterbacks Cam Newton and Colin Kaepernick, was fit as a fiddle last fall when the massive stroke struck her down while she was in the Berkshire Mountains of Massachusetts celebrating a wedding.
“I had no family history of stroke. I was as healthy as a horse,” she says. “I had run eight miles that morning. I never had anything slow me down before.”
Gilmor and her husband, Mark, at a wedding reception just hours before the massive stroke that almost killed her.
Enlarge Merideth Gilmor
Gilmor refuses to “let the stroke win.”
But as she was crawling into bed after the reception, she recalls feeling a queer sensation – like she was about to sneeze – and then everything went black.
Her husband Mark later said that she was rushed to the local hospital. She vomited and suffered a seizure. She had to be intubated to breathe, and put into a medically-induced coma to reduce the swelling in her brain.
“My dad came up with my son Colin, who was 9, to spend what they thought might be my last days,” she says.
She was medically evacuated to Yale New Haven Hospital, since the Berkshires center didn’t have a neurologist.
The doctors believe a blood clot formed in her leg – possibly from all of the flying she did, or from her birth control pill – which traveled through a hole in her heart that she was born with, but didn’t learn about until the stroke. This cut off the air supply to her brain, which is called an ischemic stroke.
“I never knew that you could be young and have a stroke,” she says. “I was only 38.”
But a stroke can happen to anyone at any time, according to the National Stroke Association. Stroke is the third leading cause of death for women in the United States (the fifth leading cause for men) and there are nearly seven million stroke survivors in the country.
Gilmor is lucky to be one of them.
“They gave my husband four scenarios based on my CAT scans,” she says. “I would probably be a vegetable. Or, I would probably never walk or talk again. Or, I would never be able to use the left side of my body or see through my left eye.
“And then the last scenario the doctor did say to my husband was, ‘There could be a miracle.”
The Gilmors were blessed with the latter. She regained consciousness in the neurology ER, and began a year of slow recovery.
“I couldn’t feel the left side of my body,” she says. “My face had paralysis and was kind of droopy. It was weird – like when your leg goes to sleep. That’s how half my body felt, but permanently.”
She started doing physical therapy, getting lots of sleep and focusing on being patient and positive.
“It was very hard,” says Gilmor. “I was always a supermom, a super career woman, traveling the world and running my own company – and now I was sleeping all day, and I had trouble knowing what day it was or following a conversation.”
The Gilmors are training to run the TCS New York City Marathon to benefit the National Stroke Association.
Merideth Gilmor is on the mend, thanks to her son Colin ( c.) and husband Mark (r.).
“I just want to cross that finish line, and prove to my son that mommy is back, and mommy is fine,” she says.
She went home a weeks later, where she continued to rebuild her strength by taking baby steps.
“I went from jet-setting to setting small goals, like, ‘Today I am going to get up and brush my teeth,’ or, ‘Today, I am going to stay awake until 6 p.m.,’” she says. “It’s incredible how little energy I had. I slept more this winter than I did for the past five years.”
Then one day this spring, her son Colin asked her a life-changing question.
“My little one said to me, ‘Mom, when are you going to start to run again?’ That’s when I’ll know you’re back,’” says Gilmor.
She used to run five miles a day, but this past February it took all of her strength just to walk to her mailbox. But by May she was able to walk around her neighborhood, and in July, she started jogging again, with her sights set on running the marathon.
“I am absolutely terrified,” she admits. “But running New York has always been something on my bucket list, and yet, I’ve always found some excuse not to do it. And I told myself, Mer, you have to beat the stroke. So I just want to cross that finish line, and prove to my son that mommy is back, and mommy is fine.”
She has been training with her husband, who also stepped up to be her primary caregiver this past year. Together they are fundraising and running on behalf of the National Stroke Association.
“I want to educate people and raise awareness – but I also want to speak to survivors,” she says. “A lot of stroke patients lose hope with their recovery, and I want to tell them to have patience. Stay positive, stick with your physical therapy. You can come back strong.”