Oklahoma Woman Finishes Marathon One Year After Getting Shot within the Head Twice


In February, Bonnie VanDeraa approached the finish line of the Sweetheart 5K in Tulsa, Oklahoma. With a determined appearance in her eye, and masses of cheers from the gang, she centered on setting one foot in front of the alternative. This race was a major milestone for her; it was the primary she’d entire without the useful resource of a walker in greater than a 12 months.

At that factor, VanDeraa have been walking for a bit extra than 5 years, starting after she signed up for that equal race again in 2014 with a coworker. Following that, she finished a gaggle of 5Ks, halfs, and marathons, or even set her sights on completing 26.2 in each nation.

But the Sweetheart 5K stays unique to her: Each 12 months, she celebrates her “running anniversary,” through taking up the race to remind herself why she commenced. This year, finishing it supposed more than normal. That’s because ultimate yr, she didn’t even suppose she’d be capable of be there for it: It got here just 3 weeks after she survived an attack in which she turned into shot in the head twice. Ultimately, she was able to finish, crossing the end with a walker.


A yr later, she marked this year’s 5K with another first—the primary race for the reason that incident she become able to finish on her very own. Each mile, she inspired different runners at the course, displaying what it takes to overcome existence’s toughest challenges, one step at a time.

Not Without a Fight
VanDeraa, who has labored as a paramedic due to the fact 2007, had the time off on January 23, 2018. Dressed conveniently in her Montana Half Marathon sweatshirt from her 2016 race, she deliberate on enjoyable all day.

Then, there has been a knock on the door. It turned into her ambulance accomplice of two years, who had lately been identified with most cancers for the second time. She suspected he changed into additionally suffering from undiagnosed put up-demanding stress ailment.

She let him in, and inside some moments, the first shot rang out. VanDeraa collapsed to the ground, clutching the again of her bleeding head.

“It become the closing aspect I anticipated from him,” VanDeraa stated.

After that first shot, VanDeraa stated he acted like he didn’t recognise what befell—almost like he had a flashback.

“I idea he become going to throw me in his truck and we had been going to visit the ER,” she stated. “Then, the second shot passed off, and I’m like, ‘What in tarnation?’”

After the second one shot to her head, VanDeraa remained conscious and combating for her lifestyles. Seeming to war with truth, her attacker alternated between offering to assist her and harming her. He then beat the lower back of her head and arms with a baton stick until it broke, subsequently breaking her arms.

Eventually, he would go away, taking her smartphone with him and telling VanDeraa he might name 911. But he never did, and it was the remaining time she ever noticed him. Later, she found out he took his personal life in a area close to the house.

On her own, she allow her paramedic talents take over.

“I recognize my education kicked in. You have to live calm on a awful call,” she said. “I don’t assume I changed into ever terrified of loss of life. I thought, ‘I’m not going to die without a fight.’”

Somehow, VanDeraa managed to move slowly out of her condo complex throughout the sidewalk to her neighbor’s house to invite him to name 911. He stayed with her until police arrived.

“Before the police got there, masses changed into going for walks via my head, and I found out I become wearing my hoodie from the Montana Half Marathon, and I notion ‘Well crap, I’m in no way going to see this hoodie again,” she said. “At least I’m not sporting the hoodie from the Chicago marathon or I’d ought to pass trade.”

After 911 changed into known as, a peace and calmness came over her. The final element she remembered changed into being loaded into the ambulance.

A Miraculous Recovery
Her fight didn’t give up whilst paramedics arrived. On the manner to the neighborhood sanatorium, she had a seizure in the ambulance, and became then flown with the aid of helicopter to Joplin, Missouri, in which she turned into treated at Mercy Hospital Joplin. Along with the skull fracture and broken palms, she suffered additional seizures and a stroke. She later found out she had moderate to intense listening to loss.

She underwent surgical operation for the trauma to her head. Immediately after the neurosurgeon took the tubes out, VanDeraa asked him while she could begin marathon training again.

But she nevertheless had healing to do: She remained hospitalized for 8 days, or even standing up made her dizzy, requiring guide taking walks from the bed to the bathroom. Other symptoms popped up too, which medical doctors had been now not in reality able to provide an explanation for.

Still, VanDeraa commenced to enhance. After some days, a bodily therapist introduced her a walker to assist combat the continuing dizziness and balance troubles so she ought to stroll on her very own.

With that independence back, there could be no preventing her.

Finding a Purpose
Her first race returned become no longer a marathon. But her February walking anniversary become just weeks after she turned into launched from the clinic, and she made sure to be there for it.

Determined, she took to the beginning line of the Sweetheart 5K together with her walker, just 3 weeks after leaving the health center, and he or she knew she wouldn’t forestall there.

“Without being signed up for races, I’d possibly be a bump on a log and warfare more than I do to get out,” she said. “It forces me to get out.”

Still, getting returned to wherein she wanted to be might take time. She and her pal Julie Sellmeyer, an emergency room nurse who ran 5Ks along with her before the incident, commenced schooling together, first walking a few miles a few times per week along with her walker. While VanDeraa is now comfy going three to four miles on her personal, she reserves longer distances for training along with her friend.

In just weeks, VanDeraa jumped proper again into the starting corrals.

“She started out out through doing it because [running] became her sanity and the issue that saved her grounded,” Sellmeyer said. “It became one aspect she wasn’t going to permit this incident do away with from her.”

In 2018, she competed in diverse distances, dressed up like Wonder Woman, together with her walker embellished to match. These blanketed the Flying Pig Challenge in Cincinnati, wherein she walked the 10K, 5K, and 1-mile races the primary weekend in May, and the Route sixty six Half Marathon this beyond November. That took her to her February Sweetheart 5K of this year, the primary race she finished without the help of her walker.

“My motive doing it is to inspire others if I can do it, then they could do anything,” VanDeraa stated. “I’ve struggled with finding a purpose for my life, and this has certainly helped.”

Then, just over a 12 months after she first requested her surgeon when she should start to marathon-train again, she finished 26.2 at the Little Rock Marathon.

“I’m cussed and tough-headed, and after I crossed the [marathon] end line it was great,” VanDeraa said. “It’s larger than my first race or my first half of or first full. I ought to be dead, however the doctors say I’m kicking existence within the butt.”

Running to Heal
While VanDeraa keeps crossing end strains, she is aware of her healing is a piece in progress.

VanDeraa nevertheless can’t work, has short-term memory problems, and suffers from occasional seizures. She remains in bodily therapy as well as counseling to help her heal.

“Sometimes the wrong phrase comes out or I even have trouble getting out phrases, and I generally tend to forget stuff, that is disturbing,” she said.

She is also slowly beginning to grow to be much less reliant on her walker. VanDeraa can handle shorter distances unassisted, now only reserving the walker for whatever over six or seven miles. That’s a chief development over a 12 months in the past, while she needed to use a walker for the whole thing.

And as the entirety in her lifestyles, there’s constantly a new goal to be reached. Up subsequent? By the end of the 12 months, she desires to whole a half of marathon walker-unfastened.

“It doesn’t count number what someone is going through, just keep trudging alongside, one foot in the front of the other and don’t surrender,” VanDeraa stated. “Eventually, there might be light at the cease of the tunnel. There’s a cause for something you’re going via.”