‘I had a heart attack aged 35... now I’m running a marathon’: Leeds Army corporal speaks of her recovery

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Army corporal Tracy Worsnop from Seacroft, suffered a heart attack aged 37. She speaks to Neil Hudson about her recovery

Armed Forces corporal Tracy Worsnop will run in this year’s Royal Park’s Half Marathon. Nothing unusual about that you might think, until you realise that two years ago, the 37-year-old suffered a heart attack which left her paralysed down one side.

An outgoing teenager, she attended John Smeaton High School and then Thomas Danby College and joined the Army when she was 19, because she wanted something challenging.

“It was a big step for me, moving away from home changes you and makes you grow up but you get used to it quickly and because you are training all the time with the same group of people, you develop a very tight bond with them, there’s a camaraderie you have with other soldiers, so they become your family and being with them becomes second nature.”

Tracy undertook two tours of Iraq and one of Afghanistan and is currently a corporal.

In 2015, she began suffering abnormal pains whilst based in Germany.

I woke up in hospital with tubes coming out of me... I’d had a stroke at 37. It was a shock.

Tracy Worsnop, from Seacroft, Leeds, who suffered a stroke aged 35

“I was experiencing pain in my gullet area which was really uncomfortable, I found it hard to stand up properly. It was difficult to sit down and lie down, the pain was that intense.”

After speaking to the medical centre, she was advised to ring for an ambulance. After an initial diagnoses, she was rushed straight to hospital.

“Once in hospital they ran lots of tests on me to investigate what was going on. It wasn’t until they did the ultrasound scan that they noticed I had a ruptured aorta and from there, I had to be rushed to another hospital that specialized in heart surgery to go straight into theatre.

“The time of my surgery was the scariest time of my life. I was in another country and felt like it really was the end, that I was going to die. I remember nothing else until waking up in intensive care, strapped to a bed with loads of tubes coming out of me.”

But her ordeal wasn’t over.

Within once week of her surgery, Tracy suffered two epileptic seizures and a stroke. Two years on, she has no memory of the episodes.

“I remember waking up in a different hospital with tubes in my neck and paralysed down the whole left side of my body. The whole episode left me feeling like someone had just taken the carpet from right beneath my feet; I felt helpless and hopeless, like I had nothing to live for.”

Tracy has not fully recovered from the surgery and is still suffering from its aftereffects but despite falling into depression, she never gave up and has managed to fight her way back to be fit enough to run a half marathon.

Despite being fit enough to run in the half marathon, Tracy is still not fully recovered and is still working on regaining full use of her left arm.

Tracy, a keen sportswoman and runner before her sudden illness, will be running in this year’s Royal Park’s Half Marathon on behalf of the Royal Prince’s Trust.

This will be her first half marathon since her illness and she is hoping to complete it in two hours.

She said: “I did a work placement with the Royal Prince’s Trust on their team courses and they helped me build myself up and gave me back a purpose in life, and the confidence which I had lost from being ill.

“I feel like they just gave me a chance to be me again and without that chance I don’t know where I would be now so I would just like to give something. It’s such a great cause, showing young people that not everyone gives up on them. It’s truly inspirational.

“When bad stuff happens I would always advise fighting on because you can beat whatever it is you are up against and you will come out stronger the other side.”

Tracy will be one of more than 16,000 runners at the starting line at Hyde Park to run the stunning autumnal route, dubbed ‘the most beautiful run in the world’’

Now in its tenth year, the aim of the Royal Parks Half Marathon, presented by Royal Bank of Canada, is to raise money for charities big and small, and each year the event grows in popularity, getting bigger and better. Since 2008, the event has also raised a whopping £30m for approximately 750 charities.

For those who want to go along and support on the day, the Food & Fitness Festival offers a feast of street food inspired goodies with something for everyone, alongside free activities for all ages.

Sally Barney, head of major events for the Royal Parks said: “The Royal Parks Half is a fundraising event for charities both large and small, as well as a fun day out in London’s magical parks for everyone who comes along to support the runners. Now in its tenth year, the event gets bigger and better every year.”

Tracy, who is the eldest of three (having two younger brothers) recalled the moment she woke up after her stroke.

“I was just completely taken aback. I had already had surgery and was recovering, everything was going fine and the next thing I know, I wake up in a different hospital, paralysed down one side. It was quite shocking, it’s not something I expected and it was quite hard to deal with at the time. I was in hospital quite a while and then I went into rehab. I didn’t get out until November last year.”

“I started off having to use a walking frame to walk. Everything was a struggle for me, I was tired all the time but I kept on going and trying and slowly the movement came back. I think the thing was I never gave up, I wanted something to fight for and the marathon was it.

“I’ve done a number of marathons and half marathons, my thinking was that I can manage to do this, then I would be back to the fitness I was before. If I can do this, I can pretty much do anything.”



Tracy Worsnop will run the Royal Parks Half Marathon on Sunday 8th October. For more information on how to sign up for next year’s race, please visit the website: https://royalparkshalf.com/Enter/

To donate to Tracy’s cause, go to: https://www.justgiving.com/theprincestrust

Official race shirts are made from sustainable bamboo and recycled polyester (from recycled plastic bottles).

Every runner gets a medal made from leaf shaped FSC-certified wood and 40 per cent of all waste from the food festival is recycled