Nicki Anderson: Naperville residents, the best inspiring stories
By Nicki Anderson For The Sun January 7, 2013 4:32PM
Laura LaRue (left) poses for a photo with her daughter Kristen after completing a half marathon in Chicago. | Submitted
Updated: February 10, 2013 5:47PM
When People magazine hits the newsstands in January, I look forward to reading the weight-loss success stories. It’s not a magazine I normally pick up, but this issue inspires me.
I am always moved by the journey of those who have beaten the odds and come out stronger and healthier.
It’s a reminder that, although we all have our struggles, we are in charge of creating our own success.
Therefore, I decided to offer a bit of inspiration from stories that I’ve received from readers. All my January columns will feature Naperville residents who have overcome major challenges to create an amazing, healthy life for themselves.
I hope their stories move you as much as they did me. Here’s the first:
As a lifelong runner, Laura LaRue, of Naperville, has never taken her health for granted.
Laura, along with her husband, Bob, and four children always have been a healthy, active family. So, it was quite a shock when Laura had a severe reaction to a flu shot that put her into the hospital.
In October 2010, Laura volunteered in the emergency room at Edward Hospital, and was encouraged to get a flu shot. Shortly after receiving the injection, she had a serious autoimmune reaction. For the next month, Laura was a patient at Northwestern Memorial hospital in a coma.
Through a series of plasmapherisis treatments (the removal, treatment and return of blood plasma from blood circulation), she eventually came out of the coma.
“When I woke up, I had such serious neurological impairments, I couldn’t move,” Laura said.
“I couldn’t speak, open my eyes, eat, sit, stand or walk. I spent three months at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago receiving intensive physical, occupational and speech therapy.”
Laura credits her therapists, husband, family and friends with her recovery. But she also understood the value of being in great physical shape before the incident.
“I sincerely believe that my fitness level before my illness helped me immensely in my recovery,” she says. “Knowing how to work out and push my body, having that mindset was a huge help.”
While in therapy, Laura had to relearn basic tasks such as moving her fingers and hands, learning how to swallow, sit up, speak words and then sentences. Things that many of us take for granted.
“Once I was able to master basic movements, I learned to stand again and feed myself,” she says. “I couldn’t open my eyes for four weeks after ‘waking up,’ so that made my therapy sessions a bit more difficult as well as frustrating. However, I did learn to rely on (my) sense of smell and sound to identify people and activities around me.”
After a month of therapy, Laura went from walking on a treadmill strapped into a harness, to a walker, to walking with assistance, to walking a few steps on her own.
When she was released from formal therapy in March 2011, she was fortunate to continue her rehab at Edward Health and Fitness Center where she works.
“The most difficult part of my journey was keeping a positive attitude,” she says.
“My limitations were frustrating as well as frightening. My husband was my pillar of strength — always reminding me not to focus on what I couldn’t do, rather on what I could do.
Her tenacity paid off.
“I knew I was on my way when I was able to walk out of RIC on Christmas Eve 2010 holding only my husband’s hand for assistance,” she says.
“They originally were preparing to send me home in a wheelchair, cane or walker, so I made it a goal to leave without any of those aids. I knew if I could walk out on my own, I could continue to work toward regaining strength, balance, and coordination. So, that’s what I did.”
During the course of Laura’s therapy at Edward, she met a trainer named Karen Wick. Karen took Laura under her wing. In July 2011, Wick suggested to Laura that she begin running again with the goal of completing a 5K race in September.
“I’m happy to say, I met that goal,” Laura says.
“I was thrilled to not only be running again, but competing in a race. I had wondered if I would ever walk again, so it was a very emotional run.”
Since September 2011, Laura hasn’t looked back. She has continued running and completed a 10K, 10-mile run, and a half marathon.
In October, Laura ran the Chicago Marathon with her family and crossed the finish line!
“To say it was an emotional event would be an understatement,” she says.
“To run through our beautiful city on a glorious fall morning was a peak experience I never imagined I would have, and I will never forget it. The truth is that you never know how strong you are until being strong is your only choice.”
Congratulations Laura, I’m looking forward to your 2013 accomplishments!