NEW YORK — Marion Bartoli said she didn’t have visitors while hospitalized for weeks this summer due to a mystery virus. Nor a cell phone.
“So tired, I was just not allowed to have any contact,” the retired 2013 Wimbledon champion said. “My heart was beating so slowly.”
Twenty-eight beats per minute at one point.
Bartoli was hospitalized in Italy shortly after covering Wimbledon for TV networks in July. She revealed at the tournament that she had contracted a mystery virus, likely in February while traveling from Australia to New York to India to France. And probably during the India portion.
The Frenchwoman said she spent three weeks in an Italian hospital in July, unable to digest food. Her condition was not improving when she was transferred to a French hospital that specialized in tropical virus infections in early August. She said she spent three weeks there, too.
“It’s either, I’m dying, or somehow I can live through that, and I can find myself a goal that would make it exciting,” Bartoli said.
Bartoli was attached to a pair of IV drips and a feeding machine. She had lost 30 pounds and dipped to 100 pounds overall.
“Battling every single day to survive,” she said.
Doctors determined she had something similar to H1N1 in her blood, plus another virus attacking her muscles and bones.
“I was almost, like, shrinking,” she said.
Bartoli began sketching designs for her own fashion line while all but bedridden (save a 15-minute daily shower). She asked to be allowed a computer to assist with the drawings.
It was granted. Bartoli made further use of it, looking up her old tennis highlights, including her 2013 Wimbledon title. That inspired her.
“I was fit and strong,” Bartoli said. “Sport has been in my life forever. I will always be a sportsperson. I thought, if I can set myself a sports goal, that would maybe help me keep my faith, because at some point I was just losing my faith to be able to recover one day from this.”
Bartoli decided that goal would be the New York City Marathon in three months’ time. She remembered fellow tennis player Caroline Wozniacki gushing about her experience at the five-borough race in 2014.
“I thought, well, if I can run this iconic run, and I can go through that while I’m going through this right now, it can be the best recovery medicine for me,” Bartoli said Wednesday, smiling while telling her story repeatedly to media after a Central Park press conference.
Bartoli eventually regained enough strength to leave the hospital and start readying for the race. Though Bartoli said Wednesday her first training run was Oct. 1, the day before her 32nd birthday, her social media suggests late August.
Regardless, she was adamant that the recovery is not yet finished. Bartoli is happy with her weight but said she can’t eat proteins or starches.
Bartoli said she once ran three marathons in three days as part of a Virgin Media event in 2014. Her goal time for Sunday’s marathon is between 4 hours, 15 minutes and 4 hours, 30 minutes.
“I just want to finish,” she said.
Bartoli said a French TV crew will film her during Sunday’s race and that she expects her doctors to scream at her for going through with the marathon once she returns to France.
“It’s been a rough patch, a very interesting one,” she said. “When I will be able to look back on it and see this whole thing just as a whole nightmare that is gone, I think I will be a happy person.”
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