'She made that choice to survive': Woman running again one year after hit and run

Published: Nov. 13, 2017 at 4:28 PM EST|Updated: Nov. 14, 2017 at 7:51 AM EST
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Over the 40 days she was in the hospital, Gorondy's husband never left her side. (Source:...
Over the 40 days she was in the hospital, Gorondy's husband never left her side. (Source: Denise Gorondy)

HANOVER, VA (WWBT) - More than one year after she was hit by a car while jogging and left for dead, a Virginia mom is not only back on her feet, but running again.

Dr. Denise Gorondy is a wife, mother, veterinarian, avid runner and most recently - a survivor.

"She made that choice to survive. She fought for over an hour in the field," said Gorondy's husband Ben Toderico.

It was a sunny summer day in June 2016 when the Hanover mom was out for her morning jog. In an instant, everything changed.

"It was around 7:10 a.m., 7:20 a.m. that I recognized that she had been gone too long," said Toderico.

Gorondy was about a mile into her run when a driver hit her from behind, launching her into a field. She laid there bleeding for more than an hour before help arrived.

"I had a traumatic brain injury and brain hemorrhage, a broken neck, a broken back," said Gorondy. "I had a lacerated liver, a bruised kidney, a broken tibia and fibula, broken ribs, a fractured tooth, and I subsequently suffered strokes in the hospital."

Gorondy doesn't remember being hit and was unconscious many of the first few days in the hospital, being treated for multiple life-threatening injuries.

Over the 40 days she was in the hospital, her husband never left her side.

"I would whisper in her ear often that 'I can't get you through this part. You have to get through this, but I will put you on my back, and get you through rehab,'" said Toderico.

Even then in the darkest of moments Toderico knew his wife would run again.

"He would kiss me, and there was one night I kissed him back," Gorondy said. "And he called my sister and said 'she kissed me.'"

After weeks of treatment, Gorondy, with her husband as her coach, began a grueling rehab process. First, she had to relearn how to walk.

Toderico says his wife defied expectations the entire time.

"We just started baby steps. Then, we added in literally ten steps of running, 30 seconds of running, so it was a gradual progression," Toderico said.

Now, Gorondy spends 20 hours a week on physical therapy. The hit and run left her with severe nerve damage in her arm.

The hardest part, she says, is not being able to practice as an equine vet, and caring for her three- and five-year-old sons.

"We're a very active family, and very involved in our boys lives. So it was so challenging for me not to be able to scoop up my boys, and hug them, and run with them, and play with them," she said.

Running is no longer the cathartic escape it once was, but Denise is determined to keep going.

"I can't help but wonder why the moon and the stars and the universe aligned in such a way that I was chosen to be the victim of that hit and run," Gorondy said. "But Ben has always said to me, 'we may not know exactly why you were chosen, but the one thing we know is you will inspire people.'"

Next week, Gorondy will mark a new milestone, defying expectations once again.

On Saturday, with friends, family and Ben by her side, Gorondy will participate in the Lloyd Family Farm 5k. She is the beneficiary of the race, and it will be the first time she's run publicly since the tragedy.

It's a show of the hurdles she's overcome, the miles of recovery still to come and how the community has cheered her on every step of the way.

"We're not at the end of the race yet; we're going to get there together," she said. "We will get there. I wholeheartedly believe that."

The driver who hit Gorondy was sentenced to five years in prison for failing to report an accident and 12 months for reckless driving.

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