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Saturday, August 30, 2008

She signaled by blinking her eyes and nodding: An endurance athlete at the end of life

Barbara Warren, a champion endurance athlete in the over-60 age group, died in Santa Barbara, California on Tuesday, three days after crashing during the cycling portion of the Santa Barbara Triathlon.

She had broken her neck in the fall and was paralyzed from the neck down, breathing with a ventilator, when she signaled, by blinking her eyes and nodding, that she wanted the ventilator turned off.

"She wanted to leave," said her sister. "No athlete would like to have a life with only their eyes talking."

Barbara had competed 13 times in the Ironman Triathlon World Championship in Hawaii, winning it at the age of 60. The triathlon consists of a 2.4 mile ocean swim, a 112-mile bike ride, and a 26.2 mile marathon.

Advice to family members with gravely ill relatives: Honor the wishes of family members about the end of life.

Read another end of life story.

Thanks to Bruce Weber for the source story in today's New York Times.

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