Cartwrites: Courtney Blasius, a runner reborn

Posted Tuesday, May 7, 2013 in Features

Cartwrites: Courtney Blasius, a runner reborn

Doug Blasius and his daughter Courtney at the Blueberry Cove finishing line last summer.

by Steve Cartwright

Courtney Blasius trudged to the finish line long after everyone else. A band of friends clapped and shouted, and someone blew on a conch shell.

Hugs and tears followed. Courtney beamed, her eyes telling a story. It was a sunny day, Aug. 26, 2012, and she had just completed her first half-marathon, the Blueberry Cove 13.1, in Tenants Harbor.

For a brief, blissful interval, Courtney, 28, could forget about awkwardness, frustrating falls, her words that others can't always follow. She has put in years of effort simply to walk again. To write. To speak. Five years ago she was, by her own description, a "vegetable."

A contraceptive called Yaz is the apparent culprit, Courtney said. Studies have linked Yaz, manufactured by Bayer, to blood clots, injury and death, and lawsuits have been filed. On Sept 11, 2007, her 23rd birthday, Courtney's heart stopped for 20 literally breathless minutes. "The lack of oxygen killed off a massive number of brain cells," she said. "Clinically, I can say that I was dead."

Today, she is again her articulate, aware and alert self, and she says it wasn't just medical care. "If not for the incredible encouragement I've received along the way, I might still be there ... I've received a second chance."

Simple things such a tying a shoe seemed insurmountable at first. She had to re-learn how to eat, to walk, to comb her long, brown hair. She doesn't run the way most people do. At least not yet. It's more of a walking pace. "I know that running with a baby carriage and no baby looks questionable to the unknowing observer," she said.

Completing a half-marathon is one in a long line of accomplishments, and there are challenges Courtney still hopes to meet, such as being hired for some meaningful work. She had already been hired for a high-paying job when her life turned upside down.

She was a runner before. She is a runner again, but to say it's a struggle seems like understatement. "It's an uphill battle every step for me right now."

Like many a runner, Courtney said that she has long felt "an innate need to run, to clear my head, or just keep myself moving." She ran while at middle school in her home town of Waldoboro. She ran cross-country while at the local high school, then headed for the University of Vermont in Burlington, the city where she still lives.

At UVM, she majored in biological sciences and community development, and graduated in 2007, a bright, cheerful woman with the world at her doorstep. In a few months, she would be facing death's door.

Recalled Courtney, "I was taking Yaz for birth control. That's what caused the cardiac arrest. My heart stopping led to no oxygen to my brain. Therefore, I suffered an anoxic brain injury, where I lost brain cells affecting all of the lobes, which is why I have so many various difficulties to adapt to."

Courtney is adapting, sometimes a step forward, sometimes backward, but making progress that inspires comments. "I'm so proud of you," said her aunt, Marti Deanguera, who lives in Arizona and came to Maine to watch her niece run.

Kartika Wright, a runner from Readfield who had never met Courtney before, said, "Fantastic accomplishment! Such strength of soul ... well done; you are an inspiration."

Howard Spear, who organizes the Maine Half Marathon in Portland, was so impressed with Courtney's Blueberry Cove run that he invited her to his race, and she completed that course as well.

Vern Demmons of Warren, a 66-year-old runner, said simply, "Now that makes my day."

David Slagger, who has served as a Native American representative to the Maine Legislature, called Courtney's comeback "an inspiring story." Many other people wrote about how she has motivated them to run, and to appreciate others. One runner said that after seeing what Courtney accomplished, he wouldn't be so likely to complain about sore muscles.

Blueberry Cove runner Alicia Costa said simply, "makes my heart smile." Mike Curry, another participant, called the feat "pure courage and determination."

Her parents, Doug Blasius and Julie deAnguera, have never let their long-ago divorce interfere with working together to give their daughter financial and emotional support.

Said Courtney: "My survival is a testament not only to my hard work, but the incredible feats which can be achieved when we work together. I owe where I am today to so many different people."

This year's Blueberry Cove 13.1 will take place on Aug 25. To register, visit:


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