You can find Misty White Dion on the websites LiveLeak.com or YouTube by searching: she ignored the lights and paid the price.
She’ll be the person doing cartwheels in the air after being struck by a car, though she’s not nearly as high as one of her sneakers that soared over the traffic light.
That police dashcam video is from Oct. 2, 2013.
By merely surviving without brain damage or paralysis, Dion beat the odds.
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What the 40-year-old Myrtle Beach resident has been able to accomplish in the 30 months since the accident is miraculous.
Dion will be running in the Boston Marathon on Monday, having qualified for the Super Bowl of marathon races after the accident, and she has set personal bests in both marathon and half marathon races since the horrifying collision with a car she estimates was traveling 45 mph.
I don’t even walk right, but I can run like a freakin’ champ.
Misty White Dion
“I don’t even walk right, but I can run like a freakin’ champ,” Dion said.
Dion now is a combination of flesh, bone and metal, as plates and screws were placed in several parts of her body to help the myriad of broken and fractured bones heal properly.
“It was a pretty traumatic injury, an injury that most people would not survive, honestly, at that rate of speed,” said Dr. Christopher Boullion, a Trauma Orthopedic Surgeon at Grand Strand Medical Center, and one of a few surgeons who “put Humpty Dumpty back together,” as Dion refers to it.
“She’s extraordinary,” Boullion said. “This is not typical of most people with these types of injuries. She’s a little bit of a phenom, I guess.”
A highly competitive runner who was driven, maybe even obsessed with winning prior to the traumatic accident, the nurse at Carolina Bone and Joint Surgery Center returned to running with an adjusted attitude.
“I got a new appreciation once I started coming back,” Dion said. “I promised myself I was just going to enjoy it at least. But then I started getting a little faster and started racing again and here we are.
“But I’m enjoying it now. So now it’s twofold: the goals are to win some races and to also enjoy it.”
On a Saturday morning, Dion was headed for a training run over the Robert Grissom Parkway bridge while preparing to defend her women’s title in the Georgetown Half Marathon.
She parked her car on the east side of the corner of 62nd Ave. North and U.S. 17 and was attempting to cross 17 against a green light.
She said she pushed the button for pedestrians at the intersection and was waiting for the signal to cross. But a driver in the right turn lane slowed and was allowing her to cross, as was a driver in the middle lane. But the driver of a car in the left lane struck her and propelled her into the air and farther into the intersection, where she landed on the pavement.
“He didn’t see me, clearly. I didn’t see him, and I don’t remember a thing about it,” Dion said. “I just have seen me flying through the air on the video.”
Dion’s injuries were extensive and severe. According to Dion and/or Boullion:
▪ Her pelvis was shattered
▪ Her left shoulder was fractured into four parts and tendons were torn
▪ Her right wrist and hand were broken in multiple places and torn tendons had to be replaced with those from other parts of the body
▪ Her lower spine was broken and required hardware to heal
▪ Surgery was required to remove pavement from her right knee
▪ Her right ankle was broken
▪ She had deep gashes and bruising on her face and forehead
Dion was awake through her ambulance ride to the hospital, but was in shock. “I was like, ‘You [nurses] have to hurry up because I’ve got to get home and get in bed, I’ve got to work tomorrow,’ ” Dion recalled. “And I think the lady’s like, ‘Oh honey, I don’t think you’re working tomorrow.’ ”
Dion was in a medically-induced coma for a week while doctors performed multiple surgeries.
No. 1, it’s amazing she survived an accident like that ... and now that she’s back to running it’s pretty amazing. ... She’s just an individual who perseveres and I think she’s remarkable.
Operating surgeon Dr. Christopher Boullion
“No. 1 it’s amazing she survived an accident like that, especially not having head trauma, and now that she’s back to running it’s pretty amazing,” Boullion said. “She’s a dedicated individual. She’s just an individual who perseveres and I think she’s remarkable.”
With pelvic fractures there’s a high incidence of internal injuries, but Dion escaped them. “She didn’t have what you would expect to see from someone who got hit that bad and had that many broken bones in the pelvis,” Boullion said. “It might be attributed to her level of fitness but also just pure luck in some respects.”
Boullion said two surgeries were required to put Dion’s pelvis back together. “The [pelvis] ring had been kind of just mangled,” he said. “She had multiple fractures there that had to be put together with plates and screws in a three- or four-hour operation for that alone.”
Boullion said the plates and screws are put around the pelvis breaks and are meant to hold everything in place while the bones heal. Once everything heals the load is taken off the plates and they remain without much purpose, but they do remain because an invasive and extensive surgery is required to remove them.
The left shoulder surgery “took about 2 1/2 hours, just piecing everything together,” Boullion said.
“She healed everything beautifully. I would expect to see some form of disability as far as not being able to achieve that previous level of competition when you have that many fractures around your pelvis,” he said.
Plates in the spine and shoulder have been removed, and they remain in the pelvis and right wrist. “That’s why we call [the pelvis] the bear trap because there’s more hardware than bones in there,” said Dion, who believes the stress she has put her body through to get back to running marathons may have loosened up a screw or two. “One of the screws, which actually makes up my left butt bone, is trying to work its way out. I can feel it.”
Dion remained at Grand Strand Medical Center for a month before being released for three weeks of rehabilitation at Tidelands Waccamaw Rehabilitation Hospital.
“I’m a fighter,” Dion said. “I think my goal my first day [of rehab] the nurse said, ‘I want you to walk 350 feet.’ Then she’s like, ‘You’ve walked like 1,000 feet. Go home and go to bed.’ I was ready to get back.”
Love, friends assist
Returning to regular runs with her now husband, Ryan Dion, and friends in the Grand Strand Running Club was a constant motivation to recover.
“I said, ‘If I can just get back to running, I don’t care if I ever win another race, I’ll just run with you guys and I’ll run with the slow people and the people I’ve never run with before,’ and I did that for awhile,” Misty Dion said.
Running wasn’t always a passion. The Asheville, N.C., native didn’t take it up until she was 34, when her sister, Robin Wilson, wanted a running mate in her quest to lose weight. While her sister continued to run recreationally, Dion seemed to be a natural and it led her to a lifestyle change that included cutting out cigarettes and drinking less in order to run more competitively. She soon qualified for the 2013 Boston Marathon.
“I tell people it took me 34 years to find something I was good at,” Misty Dion said. “I had a little bit of beginner’s luck when I first started and I had won a few races. My goal was to just get better and better.”
She was living in Wilmington and joined a running club there, then won her first women’s overall title on the Strand in the Blue Crab 5K. Following the race she was invited by a man in the Grand Strand Running Club to regularly run with the group, and she spent several months driving the 80 miles twice a week to run in the club.
“It’s all because of my running club that I moved down here,” Misty Dion said. “It changed my whole life, and we became such good friends. On 20-mile runs on a Saturday you get to know people pretty well.”
She met Ryan Dion, who now manages an Asics running apparel retail store, at a race in early 2013. He was with Dick’s Sporting Goods and moved to Myrtle Beach to be with her in August 2013, just two months before the accident.
He spent the month after the accident by her bedside in the hospital and planned to ask her to marry him at a race in Savannah, Ga., later in 2014, but with her insurance about to expire at the end of 2013 he moved up his proposal so the couple could wed in time for her to be placed on his insurance without a lapse.
Misty Dion’s running clubs on the Strand and in Wilmington raised approximately $20,000 to assist her with medical expenses – in addition to members providing encouragement to recover through frequent visits – and she had to dip into the college fund she had established for her 13-year-old daughter, Madison.
“So she’ll probably go to a slightly less expensive college.” Misty Dion said. “But we’re saving it back up again.”
Returning to form
Dion was told she may not walk for six months after the accident, but doctors cleared her to run by then in April 2014. Though a lot more painful than before her injuries, the process of improving became more of a pleasure and less of a burden.
“I think my only goals before the accident were just winning races to the point where I was training my brains out and not enjoying it so much at all anymore,” Dion said. “I would be so grouchy and so angry all the time just knowing I had to go out and run. There would be so much pressure to do a certain speed in the training run that day that I would be so nervous and be a grouchy mess. It wasn’t fun. It was just all work.
“So I got taught a lesson. I’ll never dread running like I did before the accident, because now I know it can be gone in a second so I’m going to enjoy it while it’s there.”
She was up to 5-mile runs by mid-April, and because her 2013 time in the Boston Marathon qualified her for the 2014 version, race organizers allowed her and her husband to run just the final five miles. “That was really cool because they don’t usually do that,” Dion said.
Dion and her husband both attempted to hit qualifying times for the 2015 Boston Marathon at the Lehigh Valley (Penn.) marathon in September 2014. He was successful, but Dion dropped out of the race around mile 18 “because everything hurt so bad.”
Her husband opted not to run on Patriot’s Day last year, however.
“I didn’t want to go and rub it in her face,” Ryan Dion said. “It’s tough because it’s what I worked for. It’s what we both have worked for. But we wanted to go together.”
Misty Dion qualified for Monday’s race in the Outer Banks Marathon in November 2014, and Ryan Dion qualified last September in the Lehigh race.
Dion said she set a personal best marathon time of 3:20:19 in Chicago in October to already qualify for the 2017 Boston Marathon, and ran the half marathon at the Myrtle Beach Marathon in a personal best time of 1:31:44.
It’s mettle, not metal, that is allowing her to earn race medals again, Boullion insists. “It’s not my plates that are making her faster,” Boullion said. “I think it’s amazing.”
Dion said she’s in the least amount of pain when she’s running. “Every part of my body hurts, but not when I’m running,” she said. “Always after, always before. Afterwards I’m like a little old lady.”
Misty Dion aims to continue qualifying for the Boston Marathon annually. But with a new perspective on life, her running goals now also involve others.
“I want to lead groups [as a pace runner] and cheer-lead for them and motivate them and give back in that way,” she said. “Plus you don’t have to run as hard and suck wind and be miserable, you get to help the people who are sucking wind and being miserable.”
Seven Grand Strand Running Club members will participate in the 2016 Boston Marathon
Misty White Dion
* Robyn Showstack
* All achieved qualifying times except Showstack, who is raising money for Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital Boston, which has helped Boston Marathon bombing victims receive prosthetics.