Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Back from Coma, She's Ready for the Gate River Run; Woman, 52, Suffered Medical Emergency, Now Willing to Inspire Others

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Back from Coma, She's Ready for the Gate River Run; Woman, 52, Suffered Medical Emergency, Now Willing to Inspire Others

Article excerpt

Byline: Phillip Heilman

A hint of hesitation can be heard in Lina Fichera's voice when she talks about that last stretch of the Gate River Run, the part that weaves past Jacksonville's St. Nicholas neighborhood toward the Hart Bridge, known to runners as the "Green Monster," and back to the finish line.

"Even driving over the Mathews Bridge, I think about it," she said. "I looked up the length of the bridge, and thought, 'Oh my gosh, this is going to be the last stretch of our 15K.' I can do this. I've got to do this. I can't give up. But what a challenge."

Good thing she knows all about those.

Fichera, 52, has trained for Saturday's race with JTC Running, a local group. Her goal is to rekindle a romance with running that spurs her to complete a half marathon in every U.S. state and eventually get strong enough to finish a full marathon.

Impressive for someone who spent several months in a coma, had to graduate from a wheelchair to a walker and from a walker to leg braces while relearning how to walk, talk and live a normal life again after an unexpected medical emergency.

"I had to learn like a brand new baby," she said.

As Fichera recalled it, she entered the hospital for a minor operation and eventually ended up in a coma after doctors accidentally punctured organs, causing her to suffer brain damage.

When she woke up, she was paralyzed from the neck down and left wondering what had happened and if life would ever be the same again.

"Princess Diana had died, Mother Teresa died and my birthday had come and gone," Fichera remembered being told shortly after she woke up. "I thought: aeWhat? Really?'"

That was in 1997 and started a grueling process to recovery.

Doctors warned her that she might never walk again; running seemed to be out of the question.

For about two years, Fichera worked with Easter Seals - a nonprofit that specializes in working with disabled children and adults - and close friends to regain lost strength and wavering confidence.

Eventually, she recovered enough to run again - like the people she saw training on the Pacific Coast Highway in California and those who caught her attention when she moved to Jacksonville and first heard about the River Run. …

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