By John Coffelt, Staff Writer
Even though 10 months have passed since her last surgery, the doctors still warn Angela (Vaughn) Yurcik that any fall or blow can potentially shatter her hipbone.
Despite these fears, the young mother of three recently capped her continuing recovery by running 13.1 miles to complete the Southern Tennessee Plunge Half Marathon in Winchester on Oct. 6.
Her story, however, is not just one of perseverance, but is also one of love, blessing and, of course, a lot of running.
In the summer of 2007, Yurcik thought her life was moving in the right direction, but that was before being diagnosed with diagnosed with Avascular Necrosis – a painful condition in which, for unknown reasons, blood flow is cut off from the bone and results in the death of the bone.
She had the love of her family, the promise of a career in nursing and even a dance class that she had taught for 13 years.
The day her doctor told her that her right hip joint was literally dying inside her, she lost two of those loves.
“My world was crushed,” Yurcik said. “My orthopedic told me I had to resign from the nursing program that very day.
“That was my world.”
To treat her bone deterioration, doctors performed a core decompression procedure. Or in other words, a surgeon drilled into the side of her femur, up into the center of the bone to the ball joint to make three holes in it to try to re-establish blood flow to the bone.
Then everyone waits, hoping the bone comes back to life. If it does not revive, Yurcik faced a total hip replacement.
Time passed, and the surgery proved a success.
Until about this time last year, when her other hip began to ache.
Yurcik had been told that there was only a 33 percent chance that the condition would affect her left side, so to help shed some of the extra pound that she had gained during her first convalescence, she began to take short walks.
During one of the walks she noticed the distinctive pain.
“I know my body. I knew what that pain was.”
An MRI in September said the bone was fine, but the pain continued.
In December, with the pain almost unbearable, something had to be done, so her doctor set up an 8 p.m. MRI in Cool Springs, near where she continues to works at the Veteran’s Hospital in Smyrna.
Later, the doctor delivered the news that the bone had died in the three months since her last MRI.
A second core decompression procedure was performed. Yurcik was confined to a wheelchair for much of this spring.
With tears Yurcik recalls what a coworker told her at the time, ‘God has done good things for you, and will do things for you that you’ve not done.’ ”
Her condition appeared to have stolen so much from her, but from the darkest moments of her life, the most important part – the bond of her family – was able to grow and flourish into something stronger.
Her husband, Douglas, brought to the marriage a passion for running, having participated now in his fourth half marathon.
“He would run and I would say I wished that
It appeared that this would be something she would never be able to share with him.
“Running is [has become] a me-and-him thing,” Yurcik said.
It is a symbol of the power of their love and the blessing of faith.
“When I get out there…” Yurcik tries to explain, but the emotions well up, leaving only an unspoken understanding hanging in the air, pregnant with her sense of gratefulness.
This last road to recovery literally began with tentative baby steps.
“I decided in May that I would start walking to see what I could do.”
She was then out of the wheelchair, but still had trouble walking at the grocery store.
Still, she tried a short walk, then longer and longer ones.
Completely supportive, Douglas accompanied Yurcik on her walks, but deep down she knew that he has the heart of a runner.
“My world was an egg shell. Caution, caution, caution is all I would hear.”
So one day, without telling anyone, she snuck out to the quiet road their house sets on and ran just a little to see what would happen.
Nothing serious happened, so she cautiously continued until soon, those short walks had grown into miles and included quarter-mile runs.
“I can’t describe the feeling. I had been doing this running and I hadn’t even consulted my doctor.”
Yurcik says that her husband was her motivation trough it all.
Often Douglas runs backwards so he can keep a watchful eye on his wife.
“In typical Angela fashion,” he said, “she wanted to go the extra mile and try to run along with me.
“She felt like she was holding me back, because I wasn’t able to run at my own pace. She’s always worried about her pace, but at this point all she should be worried about is distance.
“Pace will come with time,” he said.
Last weekend during the marathon, the couple pulled together to run the farthest distance that Yurcik, who still walks with a limp, had ever run in her life.
“It [was something] God gave me, and whether I do it one time and that’s it, at least I got that opportunity,” she said.
“The entire race we ran together,” Douglas added. “We crossed the finish line hand and hand. What an awesome race experience.”
Angela Yurcik’s time was three hours and a minute with an average of 13 minutes and 53 seconds per mile. Her husband finished two seconds later.