Local marathon runner suffers heart attack, uses story to inspire others

SPOKANE, Wash.— Julie Pannell is a marathon runner, living and breathing the healthy life style many of people might wish they had the will power to live.

Pannell was swimming with a friend, training for a triathlon seven years ago. At 37-years-old, she was as fit as can be, so she did not expect the moment that came next, a moment which left her unable to breathe.

"I had Psalm 23 running through my head," said Pannell. "The Lord is my shepherd I shall not want, and then, even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil," she said. "So I was just, you know, kind of had that peace of knowing God was with me and he was going to carry me through whatever the outcome was."

Pannell was having a heart attack.

"I definitely didn't expect this to happen to me," said Pannell. "They did some blood work and found out that I have the Factor V Leiden, which is kind of an over clotting gene and so that contributed to the blood clots that blocked my heart," she said. "I had what they call a widow maker heart attack, which 95% end in death."

However, Pannell was healthy at the time, something that helped her in the long run.

"My doctor felt like because I was a strong runner, and I had a strong heart, there definitely, you know, there wasn't a lot of scarring and damage that happened," she said.

Pannell said she become even healthier than before, eating right and exercising four to five days a week.

"I'm a vegetarian now, I wasn't before and again it wasn't something I had to do, but for me it was something I could control," said Pannell.

Pannell devoted her life to health and even switched careers, opening up "Fleet Feet Sports" with her husband in 2012.

"Our mission was to help create a more fit Spokane," she said.

"We all have a story and I don't think anything happens by chance or by accident, I really feel like God has purpose in everything that comes into your life so using that to make a difference in my world, to inspire others, to encourage others who might be going through a similar situation."

Not only does Pannell lead fitness groups in Spokane, but she also has become involved with the American Heart Association.

She shared her story of survival at the "Go Red For Women" luncheon in 2014.

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