Gratitude That Runs Deeper, Longer Than 26.2 Miles
Answering the Call – Just Like Her Colleagues

Ashley Spongberg is determined to cross the Boston Marathon finish line this April, even if it means freezing runs along the water at Lynch Park in Beverly.

“It’s chilly! But this is awesome, to be able to run and train for the Boston Marathon right in my own backyard,” Ashley said, gesturing to the sunset over the water last month, “and it looks like this.”

For Ashley, running on Team Lahey, a proud official charity of the John Hancock Non-Profit Program, is all about paying back the people who have been there for her since she was diagnosed with epilepsy after a grand mal seizure in June 2017. The seizure interrupted a planned weekend of hiking in New Hampshire with her best friend Josie, who called 911 while Josie’s boyfriend Ty started CPR. Because Josie works with children with seizure disorders, she knew to turn Ashley on her side, which helped curb the seizure and allowed Ashley to breathe.

Her doctor at Lahey Hospital & Medical Center diagnosed her with epilepsy two days later.

“I would not be here today if not for my best friend and her boyfriend, so I am beyond thankful for them,” Ashley said.

“Ashley’s Army” rallies

State law says someone who has a major seizure like Ashley’s can’t drive for six months, which made getting to her job as a surgical technologist at Beverly Hospital difficult. Her colleagues stepped up to make sure she could still get to work.

“They rallied, they gave me rides, they scheduled my call shifts around who could pick me up in the middle of the night if we got called in,” Ashley recalled. “Even to this day, they constantly ask me how I’m doing, how I’m feeling.”

In her free time after work, Ashley started walking to the store and other places. She took up running for the first time since she had run track in high school.

That’s when Ashley got the idea to use her running to give back. She ran the Philadelphia Marathon for the Epilepsy Foundation in November 2017, just four months after her diagnosis.

The $3,000 she raised will fund research to help doctors understand epilepsy better. Her goal was to fight for patients like her, whose partial seizures were initially misdiagnosed as anxiety attacks.

“If I can prevent that from happening, it makes all the difference in the world. It makes all of this worth it,” Ashley said.

Moving forward

This year, while training for the Boston Marathon, Ashley will raise $12,000 for Beverly Hospital’s operating room. It’s her way of giving back to her colleagues who selflessly helped her.

“I love Beverly Hospital, I work here, I’ve had great support here,” Ashley said. “The O.R. is always a department where there are new advances coming out every day. It’s cool to be able to raise some money and be able to contribute a little bit.”

When she’s not at work, Ashley trains with her Team Lahey teammate Stefanie Smolinsky, who also lives on the North Shore. “We’ve said to each other, ‘I’m so happy I met you,’” Ashley said. “If anything, I’ve gained a friendship.”

Meanwhile, some of her friends in the operating room are looking to take the day off to cheer Ashley on at the finish line.

“It’s cool to have that support from all of your colleagues, and I couldn’t be more thankful for all of them,” Ashley said. “I have a pretty good team on my side. And it feels pretty awesome.”