Runners worldwide are banding together to send their support to Tommy Rivers Puzey, the Arizona-based elite athlete who has been hospitalised for severe respiratory problems.
The 35-year-old ultrarunner and physical therapist is now being kept on a ventilator, as his medical team try to find a diagnosis for his condition.
A group of Puzey’s friends have set up a GoFundMe page, which has raised over $260,000 in just five days to cover the cost of his climbing medical bills.
Puzey’s older brother and fellow ultra-runner, Jacob, said: 'Knowing Tommy, if he doesn’t spend it all, he will find a way to give back to people and will not exploit anyone.'
What happened to Puzey?
Puzey had been struggling with health issues since the beginning of the year. In January, he was struck by a devastating injury as he attempted to qualify for the US Olympic Marathon Trials during the Houston Marathon. Puzey had been on pace for 2:15, but when he glanced back to check on his fellow runners, he tripped in a pothole and tore both his hamstring and meniscus. The fall completely wiped him out and he was forced to abandon the race.
After recovering from this painful blow, Puzey got back on the trail and switched his sponsor to Swedish-based Craft. It was during a shoot with the sports clothing brand that Puzey’s poor health again became apparent. Longtime friend Derrick Lytle was struck by his exhaustion, noting that he fell asleep almost immediately after the run.
'He was barely talking, couldn’t do much, and when we got to his house he just went straight to bed,' Lytle said.
As his symptoms began to worsen, Puzey feared he may have Covid-19 and self-isolated to protect his wife and daughters. When he managed to get his hands on a test, the results came back negative.
Despite this, his condition drastically deteriorated. After coughing up blood and what his medical team believe to be part of his lungs, he agreed to go to hospital. Since his admission, he has had two biopsies and plenty of blood tests, but doctors still don't know what is happening to Puzey.
The news of Puzey’s hospitalisation has shocked the trail and ultrarunning world, who view him to be a pillar of light and positivity in the community. A qualified physical therapist, he often gave his expertise free-of-charge to his fellow runners and showed support to those struggling on the trail.
'He’s different than most runners,' Lytle said. 'Many go out and focus on their thing. He loves stopping to help no matter how far he’s going or what he’s doing. He just always takes time to help others.'
As Puzey’s friends and family stay by his bedside, the GoFundMe page continues to be flooded with donations and messages of support. Lytle explains that this is a reflection of Puzey’s continued good will – proof that what goes around often comes back around.
'Tommy cares so much about people and never asks for anything in return,' he said. 'It’s cool to see people giving back in his time of need.'
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