Maria Papalia-Meier Survived Sepsis And Is Still Running Against All Odds


My guest on the show today is a woman who’s story is as unique as it is inspiring.

Her recently published memoir detailed her battle with sepsis that ultimately led to her having to have her toes amputated.

I am looking forward to going a few easy miles with Maria Papalia-Meier or as she calls herself, the toeless runner.

Maria Papalia-Meier

Stress Relief

Maria Papalia-Meier describes herself as a type-A personality.

Prior to getting sick, Maria struggled to conceive through IVF.

The stress of trying to become pregnant kept building until Maria was forced to find a way to relieve some of it.

Maria quickly realized that running was an activity that she could do anytime and anywhere.

Running was ultimately what would keep her going, both then and now.

Maria connected with a neighborhood running group and it was those friends that convinced her to sign up for her first half marathon.

The race was supposed to take place in September, but what happened in June would change Maria’s life forever.

Knowledge Can Save Your Life

The events that would forever alter Maria’s life began as what she thought was the flu.

Unbeknownst to Maria at the time was she had a strep infection that spread to her bloodstream.

The infection spreading to her bloodstream is otherwise known as sepsis, a life-threatening condition.

A combination of a high fever, a rash that was spreading, along with hallucinations prompted Maria to seek medical attention.

She was in critical condition by the time she began receiving treatment and required a 2-week stay in the intensive care unit.

Sepsis had caused her organs to begin shutting down and she had to be brought back to life twice by the medical team.

With a combination of her husband advocating for her along with medical treatment, Maria was able to be saved.

Maria had survived sepsis, but she did not come out unscathed.

Be Your Biggest Advocate

Maria is well aware that her story could have had a tragic ending had her husband not advocated for her.

For 2 weeks, Maria was in a coma to help her body recover, therefore it was up to her husband to ensure she got the best treatment.

Another lesson Maria learned from her ordeal was that a fit individual often recovers easier than one that doesn’t prioritize health.

She is a firm believer that being in shape from running helped her to recover quicker.

Maria’s husband also walked away from the ordeal with the understanding of how important fitness is.

Over the course of 18 months, he lost a total of 100 pounds.

Their entire household, including their kids, made a total commitment to living healthier lives.

Learning To Walk Again

As mentioned earlier, Maria did not come away from her ordeal unchanged.

When she awoke from the coma she was shocked at the sight of her feet.

In order to save her life, blood flow had to be diverted to her organs, leaving her feet without the blood they needed.

After numerous consultations, it was determined that Maria would have to lose some of her toes.

A Doctor initially told her that she would never be able to run again.

Maria wouldn’t accept that answer and over the course of 3 years, she would eventually resume the activity she loved.

The process was slow and required a lot of patience along with countless therapy appointments.

A year-long stint in a running clinic at her rehabilitation office also helped her to make great strides in her progress.

Maria Papalia-Meier

Once A Runner, Always A Runner

During her recovery, Maria grasped the importance of strength training.

She hired a trainer to help her get stronger and learn how to run with her new feet.

Regaining her strength and returning to running was a process full of highs and lows.

Maria realized quickly that she was the only one that could do this and no one could force her.

Her mind was strengthened along with her body.

This entire process taught Maria that most obstacles can be removed, you just need to figure out a solution.

Some obstacles are self-made (in your head) while others can be made by others.

Sharing Her Story

Looking back on her journey with sepsis, Maria wanted to share her story so that others would recognize the deadly symptoms.

Maria ultimately chose to collaborate with a ghostwriter to put into words what she went through.

The process was extremely emotional at times to have to re-live her experience.

The process of writing and publishing a book was slow and required patience, not unlike her recovery.

It was just recently that her book, “I Am A Runner: The Memoirs of a Sepsis Survivor,” was published.

Maria has received several responses from people that have read her book and she loves hearing other people’s stories as well.

She believes that everyone can gain strength from hearing each other’s stories.


Mentioned In This Episode:

Stay connected with Maria Papalia-Meier by checking out her website The Toeless Runner and/or following her on Instagram and Twitter.


Maria Papalia-Meier is also known as the toeless runner. She survived her fight against sepsis but didn't come out unscathed. Her recently published memoir details all that she went through and how others can avoid the same fate. Click To Tweet


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