By Steve Sears
“I’m doing really well now,” says 25-year-old Mendham native, Olivia Christmann, with great enthusiasm. “I’m feeling good, I’m doing everything I’ve ever wanted to do.”
Speaking to her now, you would never think that she suffered severe injuries in a serious bike accident five years ago that could have significantly curtailed or perhaps even ended a promising champion biking career.
Instead, in addition to her own fortitude, she owes thanks to a special, encouraging team.
Christmann will be taking part in the annual RWJ Barnabas Health Running With The Devils 5K Run & Walk, which takes place from October 1-25. This year’s event will be virtual for the first time due to COVID-19. Participants can take part in their own neighborhood, in a park, on a treadmill, or wherever else running and walking can be done. All proceeds will support the 35,000 Healthcare Heroes in New Jersey that continue to battle on the frontlines during the pandemic.
Christmann will run her 5K in Boston, where she now lives and works, and will do so to support RWJBH Children’s Specialized Hospital, who were a backbone during her recovery journey.
“It was a big training year; I think I was the New Jersey state champion that year for the Olympic distance. It was my best year of training yet,” says Christmann regarding 2015. While training with her team for the Age Group Triathlon World Championships on a Thursday evening in Bedminster, she crashed after the front wheel of her bike, which was traveling at 27 miles-per-hour, tapped the rear wheel of the bike in front of hers. She suffered a broken nose after landing hard in the middle of the road, and also suffered a torn Gluteus Medius, and strained everything in her left hip. Several early outpatient therapies provided some relief, but then she started to suffer with more and more pain. In mid-October 2015, she was officially diagnosed with Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS), a chronic pain condition.
After continuing physical therapy, which was unsuccessful and her pain was growing more severe, Christmann three months later entered the 4-week Chronic Pain Management Program at Children’s Specialized Hospital that ultimately helped her manage her CRPS. “There’s definitely a few things that go into it, especially since it’s such a complex issue,” she says. “First, having a full support team where it’s the entire team working together. You have the physical therapists, the occupational therapists, the doctors, psychologists – everyone that you need is in one place working together on your care, which I think sets it (Children’s Specialized Hospital) apart.” Christmann also cites the fact that, when she told the staff that she wanted to return to racing, they were all ears and encouragement. “They were all about getting me back to the life I wanted to live.”
In 2019, only four years after her accident, Christmann was back at it, competing in the Age Group Triathlon World Championships. “My main goal,” she says, “was to get back to racing at the level that I did. Last year I raced again at the World Championships for Triathlon, so that was like a big end goal.” In 2021, she’ll be racing in the world championships again. “A lot of the major goals I’ve had since that (her bike accident) happened, I’ve reached in the past two months or so,” says Christmann, who attended Mendham High School and graduated Boston College in June.
Most of all, she’s healthy. For that, she is grateful most of all.
For more information and to support Christmann or Children’s Specialized Hospital, visit the Events page at www.rwjbh.org.