By Akshay Kulkarni (Freshman) and Radhika Kulkarni (7th Grade), Members, GTF

Introduction

Hi, my name is Akshay Kulkarni, a freshman at Gwinnett School of Mathematics, Science, and Technology (GSMST). Radhika is a seventh grader at North Gwinnett Middle school. We both are part of an organization called the Georgia Thrombosis Foundation (GTF www.gtfonline.net), an affiliate of North American Thrombosis Forum (NATF, www.natfonline.org), whose primary mission is to spread awareness throughout the community regarding the dangers of thrombosis and thrombotic conditions.

This is our first independent project since we joined GTF a few months ago. We have been very fascinated by the fact thrombosis can affect anyone. We have read several stories that athletes suffer from thrombosis, that celebrities that are not exempt from suffering from thrombosis, and that thrombosis can affect any age, gender, race and members of any nationality.

We therefore took upon us to research on the life of Lynn Jennings, an Olympic runner, who suffered from thrombosis, but managed to face this tragedy and still be able to compete at an international level. Her story of bravery and hardship compelled us to conduct research on the life of Lynn Jennings, and hope that this article will inspire others, just as it had inspired Radhika and I.

Lynn Jennings, the Perfectionist

Lynn Jennings was born in Born in Princeton, New Jersey. She graduated in 1978 from the Bromfield school in Harvard, Massachusetts. Lynn Jennings satisfied her passion for running on the boys cross country team, because there was no girls team at that time. Running was her hobby, her life, an ambition, a passion, and a profession.

Ms. Jenning was a perfectionist, and a few times in her life, she was not very satisfied with her performance:

  1. After winning several college titles, somehow, she was not fully satisfied with her performance, and hence left the university.
  2. She was unable to qualify for the 1984 Olympics

She was eventually able to quench her thirst for a title by winning a  bronze medal at 10,000 meters in the 1992 Summer Olympics, in Barcelona, with 31:19.89, setting up a new American record.

During her life, Ms. Jennings ran 2 Boston marathons:

  1. In 1978, she ran “unofficially”, finishing 2:46.
  2. In 1999, at age 39, Ms. Jenning ran officially in the Boston Marathon, finishing in 2:38.

Ms. Jennings showed an impressive performance by winning 3 years in a row (1990, 1991, and 1992) at the World Cross Country Championships.

Upon the completion of a running trail on January 10, 2004, Lynn felt extreme fatigue and breathlessness, which was very surprising to her, because she had run the trail many times. She dismissed these worrying signs, as being caused by lack of sleep or not having enough energy.

Lynn Jennings: Thrombotic Episode

Lynn Jennings had suffered from an acute bilateral pulmonary embolism. Pulmonary embolism involves a blockage in the pulmonary arteries in the lungs that is typically caused by blood clots that travel to the lungs. Both of Jennings’s lungs were heavily loaded with clots. Her right lung was not working and her left lung was severely damaged. Ms. Jennings had none of the typical symptoms of Acute Bilateral PE, except for being extremely breathless and exhausted on a running trail that she had run a million times before. Her run was on January 10, 2004. Four days later, she was walking around the block with her dog. She was suddenly unable to breathe, was blacking out, felt dizzy, and her hands and feet were icy. It was after dawn, she just sat on the sidewalk, unable to stand up. She sat until a man came by and asked if she needed help. All alone, she forced herself to cover the 300 meters that were remaining on foot to her house. She texted her neighbor and was driven to the ER. Her cardiologists, ER nurses, pulmonary specialists, internists, and radiologists told her that the power, size, and strength of her lungs is what saved her! They told her that if she had not been a runner, she would have died! Everyone felt that her athleticism and prime health made her an unlikely candidate to have to face thrombosis.

Lynn Jennings was on anticoagulants and could not run or jog for a while.

“I have been a runner since I was 14 and the only girl on the boys’ cross country team in Harvard, MA. Whether I was toeing the line at the Olympics, at the World Cross Country Championships or running 100 miles a week in training, I did it because running reminded me exactly who I am and what I am made of. These years later it remains purely so. I’ve got a long trail ahead of me in order to recover and get better. Tucked into my thoughts is the memory of being a consistent stop on the morning rounds of the doctors, cardiologists and internists when I was in the hospital. Every one of them wanted to come and talk to the Olympian whose resting and sleeping heart rate hovered between 29 – 38. Some mornings my bed was surrounded by residents, 3rd year medical students and the presiding doctor – all of whom were eager to learn from an aerobic specimen. I, in turn, wanted them to see what running did for me aside from records, medals and national titles – it saved my life” said Lynn Jennings in one of her memories (runblogger.com).

Lynn Jennings currently lives in Portland, Oregon. She is an accomplished masters rower, and won a bronze medal in 2011 and a gold medal in 2012.

Lynn Jennings will be speaking at NATF’s Celebration of Gratitude “Going the Distance” on Wednesday October 18, 2017 in Boston. We congratulate NATF for this bold initiative.

What could we can learn from the Lynn Jennings story?

Actually, several things.

First and foremost, awareness of thrombosis is the key in being able to identify the symptoms of a serious thrombotic conditions. It is crucial that you see your doctor, if you think you may be facing thrombosis.

Second, it is important that we recognize how important it is to be physically active. By spending 30 minutes a day exercising, you can prevent many of these conditions from even forming.

The next point is that the power, size, and strength of the lungs can save your life, just like these features saved the life of Lynn Jennings!

The next point is create a clear goal in your life and stay committed to the goal, no matter what!

Lastly, never give up on your performances. If you believe in what you do, stick to your goals, you will achieve them one time in your life.

We feel that we have achieved our goal of conducting research on the life of Lynn Jennings, and hope that this article will inspire others, just as it had inspired Radhika and I.

We would also like to express our gratitude to GTF for giving us this opportunity to inform the community about thrombosis.

References: (Apa Citation)

  1. Larson, Peter (2014). How Running Saved the Life of an Olympian: Lynn Jennings’ Story.           runblogger.com/2014/02/how-running-saved-the-life-of-an-olympian-lynn-jennings-story.html
  2. (2016). Lynn Jennings – Wikipedia.en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lynn_Jennings
  3. (2017). Pulmonary embolism: Take measures to lower your risk – Overview .www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/pulmonary-embolism/home/ovc-20234736