Tamyra “Tamy” McKillip, RRT, registered respiratory therapist, has worked with the Respiratory Care team at Parkview for 33 years.
“The New York City Marathon is epic, and the race has been on my bucket list for the last 17 years,” Tamy said. “It’s extremely difficult to get into. It requires qualifying, running for a charity, or entering through a lottery with less than a 10% chance of being picked. I've tried for many years in the lottery and have never been picked.”
Finally, in 2019, Tamy successfully qualified by running a race in the required time for a guaranteed spot. She was going to run in the 2020 New York Marathon, the 50th anniversary of the event. “My dream had come true!” But that dream was crushed on August 25, 2020.
An unexpected setback
“I was leaving from working my shift at Parkview Regional Medical Center (PRMC),” Tamy recalled. “I took the stairs that day, as I normally would. But I missed a step and fell down a partial flight of stairs. I had instant stabbing pain like I had never felt in my life. I tried to stand up but my foot just wasn't working. Luckily, I was able to drag myself out of the door at the base of the steps and scream for help. Within seconds, I was put on a stretcher and taken to the ER.”
Due to the excruciating pain, Tamy couldn’t sit up, let alone look at the injury to her foot. “A fellow respiratory therapist and friend, Hillary Guerra, stayed with me until my husband arrived. I’m so grateful because it was a scary ordeal.” It was Hillary who brought Tamy face-to-face with the damage to her ankle. “She used my phone and took a picture so I could see it, and I instantly knew I would not be running the 2020 marathon I had worked so desperately hard to get into.”
Tamy had suffered a catastrophic ankle injury. “I had a complete dislocation and multiple breaks. Jason Heisler, [MD, orthopedic surgeon, Orthopedics NorthEast] was fantastic. He put my ankle back together with pins, rods and screws. Later, he told me he’d never seen an ankle injury like that where that was the only part of the body that was hurt. I realized how fortunate I was. It could have been a lot worse.”
Picking up the pieces
After surgery, Dr. Heisler confirmed what Tamy already suspected. She would not be able to race for the next two years. “I had to put the race behind me and focus on what I needed to do just to get back to work,” Tamy said. “I didn't buy the race insurance so I couldn't defer to another year due to injury. My race possibilities were done.” But then, in an unfortunate twist no one could see coming, the COVID pandemic surged, forcing race organizers to cancel the event. “Suddenly, I was able to choose between the next three years to run the New York City Marathon.” Tamy was going to get her race day, after all.
By 2023, Tamy was in full training mode. “I realized that I couldn’t give up on my dream,” she said. “With encouragement from a few people, I decided to try, even if it meant that I had to walk the entire 26.2 miles.”
After about 10 weeks of walking and working to regain her stability and strength, she was ready to start running again. “I started a 20-week training plan,” she recalled. “When I reached six miles, my bionic ankle started giving me problems, so I had to regroup. I switched to power walking and had zero pain. It was a lot slower pace than I was used to, which made the long training days even longer, but I completed every day of the training plan.”
A race, years in the making
On November 5, 2023, Tamy completed the New York City Marathon. “I ran in the largest marathon in the world!” It’s also one of the hardest, with the greatest elevation gains of any of the large marathons, crossing five bridges over the 26.2 miles. For extra motivation, Tamy made a meaningful wardrobe choice. “I put a picture of my ankle on the day of the injury on my race day shirt, so I could remember how far I’ve come.”
Tamy recorded the raw emotions she experienced at the end of the race. “The feeling I had when I was about to cross the finish line is indescribable,” she said. “I finished running on all heart.” In the video, cowbells and cheers can be heard in the background, as Tamy says, “This is what 26.2 looks like!” She raises her fist in triumph as her name is announced. She looks into the camera and shares her thoughts just seconds after completing the massive goal. “That was a miracle. An absolute miracle. I’m going to get the medal. I made it. What a day!”
Time to celebrate and reflect
On the week she returned to work, Tamy was filled with gratitude. “I had an overwhelming support system,” she said. “Having worked at Parkview for 33 years, I have coworkers I’ve known longer than some of my family members.” The team welcomed her back with a surprise party, complete with a customized cake. “I was overwhelmed. I’m so blessed to work with such amazing people.”
And while she’s still riding the “high” of checking the NYC Marathon off her bucket list, she’s come down enough to appreciate the shift in perspective her temporary set back gave her. “The month after my accident, I was homebound and confined to my couch,” Tamy said. “Sometimes it takes God sitting us down to get our attention. I will never complain that I need a break again, because I made that mistake and God gave it to me in raw form. He sat me down for a month on that couch and I realized real quick that I didn’t have it so bad before. It made me appreciate my job, my family, my friends and my health. It seems weird to say, but I’m not sure if I hadn’t broken my ankle crossing the finish line in New York would have felt the same.”
Tamy’s perseverance is an inspiration to those around her. “I’m telling everyone, that if I can do it, they can do it too!” Her accomplishment is proof that, despite the hurdles life throws your way, your dreams can still come true.
Should you need assistance following an injury, you can schedule orthopedic care in Allen County, by calling Ortho NorthEast at 260-484-8551 or click to request an appointment. To find orthopedic care outside of Allen County, click to view PPG - Orthopedics locations