Cristin Van Driel: Turning Tragedy Into Triumph

The 2012 Boston Marathon was an emotional experience for Cristin Van Driel. Every stride brought memories of long physical therapy sessions and the obstacles she conquered in preparation to be there. She thought about the devoted tribe of people that helped her to reach that moment. Tears of gratitude rolled down her cheeks while she raced. “I thought about the people that weren’t able to run. I was running for them,” she said. It required an extraordinary amount of support and determination to complete the 26.2 miles. In fact, just a year and a half before the Boston Marathon, it took Cristin an hour to walk a single mile with a back brace and walker.

In July 2000, a distracted teenage driver swerved into the bike lane and hit Cristin from behind while she was cycling. She sustained several serious injuries, including temporary paralysis, a concussion, multiple fractures of the spine, broken ribs, a fractured foot, and a broken ankle.

Multiple neurosurgeons across the country consulted with Cristin. She was repeatedly told that if she endured the reconstructive spinal surgeries, she would never be an athlete again. But she did not give up. Eventually, she connected with Dr. Randall Porter and the medical team at Barrow Neurological Institute. Dr. Porter was the first person that promised to do his best to help her return to the active lifestyle she loved. It was the first time Cristin truly felt hope. The accident recovery process included seven back surgeries, some of which required an astonishing amount of hardware to stabilize her spinal column.

Cristin gives back through her own non-profit organization, Ultimate Courage Overcoming Obstacles Inc., which supports Barrow Neurological Institute. She hopes her work will help others find the hope and recovery she received at Barrow.

“The doctors told me that had I not been fit, my spinal cord would have been severed in the accident. I would have been in a wheelchair for the rest of my life. It was that moment when I decided that fitness and helping others become fit would be my life path,” said Cristin.

This passion for physical fitness is the reason Cristin persevered through the grueling recovery process. There were tough days when rehab was too difficult and the pain was too much. When she wanted to give up, she would ask herself, “Why am I doing this?” The answer provided the strength to proceed. Fitness was her passion. It saved her life. She fought each day of recovery to regain the ability to run.

Perhaps the most compelling part of Cristin’s journey is that she turned a terrible tragedy into an opportunity to give and inspire through coaching. She is passionate about helping individuals achieve personal physical fitness. She is a Certified Personal Trainer, Certified Running Coach, Certified Cycling Coach, and Endurance Sports Coach. She reminds athletes of all ages and abilities that physical fitness saves lives.

Cristin encourages others to follow her pattern of recovery. “What helped me throughout my entire rehab, from the initial accident to the back surgeries, was finding a reason to train. I tell people that they need to find the ‘why’, whether it’s to be there for their kids, feel better, or train for a race. Each individual has a unique why.” She has found that finding ‘the why’ helps athletes persevere and succeed.

She shares an additional tip for recovery. “DOCTOR HOY’S™ Natural Pain Relief helped with severe back pain from before my first surgery. I’d rather put something on me that’s natural than put something pharmaceutical inside me. We have a big dispenser at home and I use the products almost daily. I like that it’s a small company that cares about helping others. The product works!”

DOCTOR HOY’S™ has been with Cristin throughout her journey. She found the product in 2005 when she owned a running store. She was seeking a natural product that could relieve the normal aches and pains of athletes. She found that DOCTOR HOY’S™ Natural Pain Relief Gel fit the bill. “The product flew off the shelves. I bought it for just about everyone I knew for Christmas that year.”

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