Running has long been in Misty Phillips’ blood. Now it is in her heart as well as she runs to help a cause for individuals like her son.
Phillips describes her now 21-year-old son Lucas Yates as a fantastic visual artist who has won several awards for his artwork. He’s done so despite facing his own hardships.
Yates was diagnosed in 2011 with right-side Polymicrogyria, a brain abnormality that causes epileptic episodes, Phillips said.
“In 2009, my son had his first grand mal seizure on Christmas Eve,” she said. “It was really early in the morning. That is all I really remember about it, it was scary,” Phillips said. “… it took two years to get a diagnosis for his condition.”
After the diagnosis, Phillips started to seek answers and support.
“So at that time, two years into the diagnosis, I had joined several community groups online,” she said.
“In 2011, one of the community groups that I had joined sent me this nice email and they said, ‘Please join us for the Marine Corps Marathon in Washington, D.C.” and I thought it was a relay; I thought, ‘Oh this will be fun’. I said “I will run six or eight miles. I will hand the baton off to another team member. It will be awesome’,” she said.
Before agreeing to this, she had not actively been running since college, but she remembers running as early as the age of 8 as her parents were runners.
“Then I emailed the girl back and I said, ‘Sure, how far is my segment?’” Phillips asked. “She wrote me back (and) she said, ‘You run the entire marathon 26.2 miles’.”
This response caught Phillips off guard — but she was ready for a challenge.
“I am sitting the computer reading this email … and I’m Google chatting with (my husband Stephen Phillips) because he’s at work and I’m at home, and I said, ‘Isn’t this funny?’ and he said, ‘I believe you can do it and if you want to do it I will take you’,” she said.
“So then it was kind of like a challenge, right? … so I had this child at home who is pretty sick most of the time and she (Misty’s daughter Miriam Phillips) was a lot younger and I had this obstacle of not being able to leave the house. I couldn’t leave the house really.”
With her husband’s encouragement, she got on the phone with her dad. She said he thought the idea was ridiculous, but offered her a treadmill.
“I put 700 miles on that treadmill in my garage starting about the middle of June through time to run the race,” Phillips said. “I ended up going to D.C. and ran with the team and it was an awesome experience. We raised collectively about $30,000 for the Epilepsy Therapy Project.”
Phillips expected this to be a one-time experience, but she was wrong.
“It took me 5 hours and 26 minutes to cross the finish line … It was amazing and I hurt really bad afterwards. It was like a one-and-done proposition at that point,” Phillips said. “Six months later and I’m sitting in front of the computer again and I hear about the Danny Did Foundation.”
The Danny Did Foundation works with the mission of preventing deaths caused by seizures with these main goals in mind which are advancing public awareness of Sudden Unexpected Death in Epilepsy (SUDEP), enhancing the SUDEP communication model between medical professionals and families afflicted by seizures and the mainstreaming of seizure detection and prediction devices that may assist in preventing seizure-related deaths, the Danny Did Foundation site stated.
After finding the foundation, Phillips decided she wanted to do the Chicago marathon. Her husband decided he would run as well.
“In the meantime, we ran several 5ks, 10ks in Mississippi,” Phillips said. “I was running really well… I ran the Coca-Cola 10k in Corinth, Mississippi, met my coach there — who still coaches me to this day. He’s in his 70s and he has run over 70 marathons.”
Phillips’ coach informed her she had what it took to get faster. He persuaded her to try to go faster by pointing out the shorter her run time, the easier her recovery would be.
So they developed a training plan.
“He took me from a 5:26 to a 4:17 finish time,” Phillips said.
Several marathons later, she ran her best time of 3:58 in Charlotte.
Phillips currently trains six days a week while her husband trains for five.
“We get up at 4 o’clock; we currently run about 50 miles a week … I have two 70-mile weeks coming up,” Phillips said.
The family does all of this to help families like theirs.
“Really the disease of epilepsy — and really probably most diseases — they affect the family at least as much as they affect the person who has the disease ... the caregivers have the hard job. Especially when it’s a kid,” Stephen Phillips said. “It’s tough for the caregivers … and that is part of what Danny Did helps with, because it’s giving those caregivers an extra weapon in their arsenal of helping to fight the disease and keep their child safe.”
Misty and Stephen are currently training to run in the Chicago Marathon in October and are raising money for Danny Did.
They have committed to raising $3,500 in support of the foundation.