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Published January 21, 2011, 09:44 AM

NDSU runner from SD survives health scare

FARGO, N.D. (AP) — The power and the speed have never been problems for North Dakota State University junior Brittany Page. She set six South Dakota high school track and field records at Watertown High School and made her way into a couple of Top 10 lists her first two years at NDSU.

FARGO, N.D. (AP) — The power and the speed have never been problems for North Dakota State University junior Brittany Page. She set six South Dakota high school track and field records at Watertown High School and made her way into a couple of Top 10 lists her first two years at NDSU.

She has the school's fourth-best time in the indoor 60 meters and is No. 5 in Bison history in the outdoor 100 meters. A strong athlete who squat lifted 180 pounds before she left for Christmas break, she was poised to improve on that.

Then she woke up at home in Watertown on Christmas morning, a Saturday, with a headache and a fever. Nothing uncommon. It got worse on Sunday and flu was the natural self-diagnosis. By Monday, she had a rash on her leg, a sore throat and a fever of 103 degrees.

The fever went down on Tuesday, so she was able to convince her parents to let her go to a Christian student conference in the Twin Cities that day.

"Once I was there, I got so weak I had to have a friend put my shoes on," she said.

A nurse took her to Hennepin County Hospital in Minneapolis, where after a multitude of tests that involved some 30 doctors, she got the following diagnosis: toxic shock syndrome.

And the biggest shock? If Page hadn't gone to the emergency room, doctors told her she probably had about 12 hours to live.

Her blood pressure was very low, her heart was failing, her kidneys were failing, her liver and spleen were enlarged and her gall bladder was infected.

"If I had gone unconscious, they said I would have had some brain damage," she said. "Yeah, it's crazy to think about it. There's not much I could have done to avoid it."

Toxic shock syndrome is a rare disease caused in this case by bacteria of an unknown origin. A student of strong faith, Page said she wasn't worried lying in the intensive care unit at the hospital for three days.

It helped that students at the conference were only blocks away and visitors were common.

"I was a lucky girl," she said.

These days, she mostly watches her Bison teammates practice. She's redshirting this indoor season and hopes to be ready for outdoor.

She lost 10 pounds of muscle and her squat lift is less than half of what it was. Yet, in the big picture, she was only about 12 hours away from not being here.

"I'm so thankful and blessed," she said with a laugh. "It's weird to watch my teammates run, but I was planning on redshirting at some point anyway. I've progressively gotten better each year so I'm glad I'll be here for a fifth year."

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