Ian Simpson remembers the October night right before his life changed.

“I had my girlfriend over and I was cooking and we were playing around in the kitchen. She was throwing a few shots at my arm, my left bicep, and all was normal,” said Simpson.

Until it wasn’t.

“The next morning, I woke up at about 5 a.m. and I looked in the mirror and my left bicep was completely purple, like somebody had painted it with a paintbrush,” said Simpson.

After a blood test that morning, Simpson received a call later that night to immediately head to the hospital. His good friend Yana Hempler dropped him off.

“As he was leaving our vehicle he said ‘I’m actually not sure I’m coming back out of here again’,” recalled Hempler, who said her and her fiance at the time turned “white as a ghost” when hearing of Simpson’s uncertain health.

The middle-aged Simpson was diagnosed with idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura (ITP), a rare immune disorder that affects blood flow. ITP can be fatal if undetected, but the doctors at Victoria’s Royal Jubilee Hospital quickly went to work. After four days in critical care, Simpson was released and back on his feet.

“They took great care of me right from start to finish,” said Simpson.

Now 10 months later, Hempler is now days away from honouring her friend and the people who saved him the best way she knows how.

“I want to run 10 marathons in 10 days in order to raise funds for the Victoria Hospitals Foundation,” said Hempler.

The Russian-born, Island-raised running coach has tackled giant feats before. In 2013 she ran approximately 500 kilometres from Port Hardy to Victoria in less than a month. However, around 425 kilometres in 10 days is uncharted territory, even for Hempler.

“I have never done anything like this before so this is going to be my first time, which makes it even more exciting. So there’s an element of risk involved,” said Hempler, who’s attempting the challenge while using vacation days from her full-time job with Viking Air.

Hempler’s fundraising efforts will go towards the purchasing of life-saving equipment in Victoria Hospitals.

“We’re so incredibly grateful and will be cheering her on from the sidelines and sincerely say thank you for all of her efforts,” said Ashley Sperling, associate director of Marketing & Communications with the Victoria Hospitals Foundation.

“I’m pretty honoured by that, absolutely of course, and I am blown away by her doing this,” said Simpson in regards to being Hempler’s motivation.

Yana Hempler’s 10 marathon in 10-day journey kicks off Friday morning. Her four-kilometre route begins on the Galloping Goose trail near Tillicum Road, looping around Saanich Road. She’ll be running several laps per day and encourages others to join in while keeping a safe distance.

To support Hempler’s cause, click here.

Kevin Charach