By Jean Dubiel, Fort Polk GuardianApril 28, 2017
FORT POLK, La. -- Imagine yourself out for a morning run along a familiar road. You've been making good progress in preparation to run a marathon -- the Boston Marathon, no less! You're excited to have been granted a slot in this famous run, and in your home state, too! Practically in your hometown!
A section of the road ahead looks easier to tackle from the other side, so you cross over. Now you are running with the traffic instead of opposite, which is generally a no-go, but this is just until you make the curve. You are focused on your breathing, tracking how your feet strike the pavement, when suddenly …
You wake in a daze. Your arm hurts. You are laying in a ditch not far from the road. A stranger is hovering over you asking if you're OK. You can hear sirens in the distance … that arm really hurts.
This was the scene for Warrant Officer 1 Shawn Hogan on the morning of Jan. 30 as he was running along La. Hwy 467. "I'm not sure if the driver fell asleep or what, but I was directly hit by the vehicle -- first the headlight, then the mirror, then the very end of the truck, and (the impact) pushed me down a little hill," he said. "Once I regained consciousness, I remember talking to my wife on the phone, but not what I said. She said I just kept repeating that I was discombobulated and that my arm was done."
The humerus of his left arm was broken in two with elbow and nerve damage. He now had just three months to heal before the marathon -- not enough time for a 100 percent recovery, but thanks to Hogan's occupational therapy team, and the care he received in those crucial hours after the accident, he was able to run the event.
"Everybody from the ambulance driver to the emergency room, and my orthopedic doctor and occupational therapist -- I am pleased with everybody across the board. They have all been phenomenal. You can tell they really care about what they do," said Hogan. His therapy team was most instrumental in getting him to the marathon, he said. "I see the kind of hours they have to keep and what they do, but when I come in it's like everything stops and they just focus on me. I am very thankful for that. If it wasn't for them, I probably wouldn't have been able to run the Boston Marathon," Hogan said.
"When I first met him (the therapist), I told him what I wanted to do and he set up a plan for me. He said, 'We're going to get you there,' and they did."
Running the Boston Marathon, which was held April 17 this year, is no easy task. First, you have to prove to the Boston Athletic Association that you are able to run a marathon -- 26.2 miles -- so there is a qualifying requirement that must be verified and submitted, and only the fastest times are selected to run the marathon. But there is another way to grab a slot: Running for charity, which is what Hogan was doing.
"Normally you have to qualify, but I went the charity route. I was raising money for the American Red Cross," he said. "I wanted to run for them, to keep their support mission going because of what they do for Soldiers. They help when we are overseas and someone passes (by getting Soldiers home), and they have the blood drives, but they also do a lot of other great things."
Hogan said he needed to raise $6,500 but ended up with $8,000. "So when I ran, it was for the Red Cross, and for the $8,000 in donations that my run was going to provide for them. I had so many people supporting me, there was just no way I was going to let them down and not run."
There were a few other reasons why running the Boston Marathon was important to Hogan, who hails from Cambridge, which is near Boston in Massachusetts. "I've run three Marine Corps Marathons (held annually in Washington, D.C.), Army 10-milers, half-marathons, but Boston, because I am from there, is special," he said. "I know the impact that run has on people, especially since the bombing (in 2013), and I recently watched the "Patriots Day" movie (about the bombing and aftermath), so there were so many things going on with me emotionally that I just had to run this marathon."
Hogan said he had a few concerns about his injuries before the run. "After the accident, I began running consistently four to five miles a day, six days a week, because I wanted to keep my legs moving. But the way my arm was sitting as I ran was causing some strain in my neck area. I had a concern that I could reinjure (the arm) during Boston, but also, with all those other runners, I was worried someone would hit it."
Someone else was also concerned about his arm during the run -- so much so that she tried talking him out of it.
"My mom sat me down on Easter Sunday, the day before the run, and tried to talk me out of running because she was concerned for my safety, and she didn't think I would able to finish," he said. "To hold the arm for that long was rough. I wore a compression sleeve and a special elbow pad from occupational therapy -- and you couldn't tell anything was wrong when you looked at me, so people were trying to high-five on that arm, and I just said, 'Sorry guys, can't do it!'"
About half way through the marathon, Hogan said he began to feel his discomfort increasing as the sweat was aggravating the scar site. But Hogan credits his military training for his endurance under pressure, and his family with giving him a motivational boost.
"I began to really feel it (the pain), but because of what's ingrained in me as a Soldier, there was no quitting. You start something, you finish. I saw my family at mile 17 and my wife was able to give me some Motrin, and seeing their faces at that moment, when I really needed it, was so important," Hogan said. "After that, it was all determination to keep going. When you're a Soldier, you never quit. You always put forth the effort to complete the mission and this was my mission."
The shirt Hogan wore during the marathon added another level of motivation.
"The Red Cross logo was on the front to represent running for them, but on the back I had "Always Remembered, Never Forgotten," and all the names of family and friends from the Massachusetts area that we lost over the last few years. I did that to make it a little extra special and let my family know that every step I take is for a purpose.
One moment that stands out in Hogan's mind came toward the end of the race, when he saw his wife.
"When I got to mile 26 and the final stretch, I locked eyes with my wife and thought about everything we had just come through to get to this point, and we both just lost it -- we teared up. But it was a good moment, and one I'll never forget."
Hogan said crossing the finish line with a time of 4 hours, 48 minutes, was another emotional moment for him. "My job was to finish that marathon, and I did it. To go from almost losing your life a few months prior to running this marathon, the Boston Marathon, one of the largest of the year, with all my family and friends out there supporting me, it was just out of this world."
There were no security concerns or thoughts of the bombing that took place there four years ago, until after Hogan finished the marathon. "Where I was at the finish line, I stopped and turned, and I thought 'this is where it happened.' I just couldn't imagine what it must have been like to run all this way and not be able to finish because of this incident," said Hogan. "Boston did a really good job of controlling (security), and a lot of different rules that maybe they didn't have before, but it was good. With the number of runners and spectators and shuttles and all that, I was very impressed with how everything operated. I didn't know what to expect because this was my first one for Boston, and there were other events going in in Boston that day, and from a security standpoint I think they did a great job."
Hogan continues therapy three days a week. He is still unable to open his hand and lacks full range of motion for his arm, but with the help of his therapy team, his loving family and Hogan's own determination, there are bound to be more marathons in his future.