Injuries Derailed Two Local Runners From Their Marathon Dreams;
Thanks to Surgery and Rehab, This Shamrock Weekend Is a Chance to Rejoin the Race
(VIRGINIA BEACH, VA – March 2017) Through physical toughness, mental perseverance, moral support from family and friends, and the expertise of two of Atlantic Orthopaedic Specialists’
most talented surgeons, two local athletes are able to rejoin the race and partake in a sport they both have grown to love: running.
Douglas Burghart and Darrell "Eugene" Thompson have never met, but their stories of injury and recovery run parallel as they prepare to participate in the 44th annual Yuengling Shamrock Marathon Weekend events March 17-19 at the Virginia Beach oceanfront.
Burghart is a member of the Hampton Roads Chapter of “Team Red White & Blue (RWB),” an official 501(c)(3) nonprofit that supports the lives of American veterans through physical and social activities in their community. The organization is made up of veterans and volunteers.
Thompson and his wife launched the “Run Eugene Run Foundation,” an official 501(c)(3) organization that raises funds for diabetes research and educates those suffering from diabetes on the importance and positive impact of physical exercise.
Douglas Burghart, a 55 year-old Norfolk native and 20-year Navy veteran, opted for a more holistic approach to his weight loss rather than relying on medications. By changing his diet and devoting himself to a formal running regimen, he was able to lose a total of 55 pounds in two years. To prepare for his first marathon, the 2016 Yuengling Shamrock, he ran 5Ks and half marathons.
Prior to the Shamrock, as he began increasing his mileage, he developed groin pain that improved after a few days’ rest. During the Shamrock, he began experiencing the pain from his “pulled groin” and collapsed at Mile 13.
Burghart was immediately taken to the hospital, where X-rays revealed a displaced right hip femoral neck fracture. The emergency department called Dr. Wilford K. Gibson of Atlantic Orthopaedic Specialists. An orthopaedic surgeon specializing in Sports Medicine, Dr. Gibson focuses his practice on hip, knee and the shoulder.
Only five hours after Burghart’s fall in the marathon, Dr. Gibson repaired the displaced
stress fracture. A former college track and field athlete himself, he understands runners’
problems. Dr. Gibson explained that groin pain is a ‘red flag’ for runners. “It is likely a symptom of a stress fracture developing. If a person continues to run, the bone will fail and may displace. This becomes an emergency. With displacement there is disruption of the blood flow to the femoral head. If the fracture is not repaired within hours and the blood flow restored, the femoral head will likely die. This will likely require a hip replacement in a mature runner and the end of a distance runner’s career.”
Burghart’s recovery progressed quickly from a walker, to a treadmill. By October 2016, he was ‘race walking’ the Wicked 5K and the Surf-n-Santa 5 Miler in Virginia Beach and was even able to run the last half mile.
“Without the surgical skills, and the advice and guidance Dr. Gibson provided — I wouldn’t be back to where I am right now,” Burghart said. “He put me at ease. He listened. He told me what I needed to do to get back to doing what I loved – running.” Burghart is registered and running the Shamrock 8K this year.
Eugene Thompson, diagnosed with Type II diabetes at age 37, had experienced weight gain from taking insulin injections, and constantly found himself tired and out of shape. Approaching 50 years of age and weighing close to 250 pounds, the Virginia Beach-based architect vowed to take action for his health.
When his initial exercise efforts failed to show signs of improvement, he knew running was the next step. As he started seeing results, he became determined to continue training and eventually run a marathon, a “bucket list” item of his for years. With that determination, he went on to complete 23 marathons in the span of 27 months.
Even though both Thompson and Burghart started running for their own benefit, each of them raised awareness of causes close to their hearts and larger than themselves.
Thompson’s foundation launch event was to have been his attempt at a single-day, 50 mile run in September 2016. Plans changed when he suffered a ruptured Achilles tendon two months before the launch event.
Thompson was referred to Dr. Blake Moore, FAAOS, of Atlantic Orthopaedic Specialists, who is a distance runner himself. An orthopaedic surgeon specializing in the diagnosis, treatment and surgery of the foot and ankle, Dr. Moore has a special interest in treating athletes and complex hindfoot reconstruction.
Because of Thompson’s excellent fitness level, Dr. Moore recommended tendon surgery and felt he had a very good chance for quick recovery.
“[Dr. Moore] gave me realistic expectations but also gave me hope that I could do this,” Thompson said. “Everyone was telling me ‘there’s no way’ it could happen,” he said. “Even I began to wonder if Dr. Moore was just saying this to encourage me,” Thompson recalled. “But he assured me that I was capable of doing this.”
Dr. Moore’s prediction was that Thompson could return to running within three months. Physical therapists had been advising him he would not even work out before six months.
Thompson slowly began running short distances at first and adding more as he improved. At his 11-week check-up, the therapists agreed he had progressed further than expected.
By January 2017, he was running 12 miles. Finally, six months to the day after his surgery and when most projected he would only begin running, Thompson ran 15 miles.
Thompson is registered for the Shamrock 8K on Saturday and the full Marathon on Sunday. This will be his first marathon since April 2016. The 2017 Shamrock will be the “re-launch” of Thompson’s “Run Eugene Run” Foundation.
Darrell Eugene Thompson
Darrell Eugene Thompson