My name is Demsina Babazadeh a Registered Dietitian (RD), originally from California who found her home in the great city of Boston. I graduated from UC Davis with my Bachelor of Science in Clinical Nutrition and completed my Dietetic Internship at Yale. Growing up, it had been my dream to live in Boston. The culture, active community, and genuine dedication to sport teams was just what this 10-year-old decked out in Patriots gear, watching Drew Bledsoe on the TV in her parent’s living room couldn’t wait to be a part of. I moved to Boston after Yale, in 2015 to pursue my Master of Public Health at Boston University and begin my career as a RD.
My RD career started at Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital, specializing in patients with traumatic brain injuries (TBIs). I was so impressed with how many colleagues of mine were runners. We would constantly talk about how many miles they were doing or their training plan for the Boston Marathon during charting sessions or lunch. I couldn’t even fathom running a 5k let alone 13.1 or 26.2 miles! I had always been an active person, but my brain always told me, it’s not possible, you’re not a real runner.
One of my favorite parts about working with my patient’s was being able to connect with them about their lives (and yes, we talk about more than just vegetables!). I vividly remember the day I met Jane (name changed for privacy), a high schooler track star who sustained a traumatic brain injury. At her accident, she was unable to even stand independently, much less run. She talked about how her life had changed and it will never be the same. She couldn’t fathom not being a runner anymore. Despite these fears, Jane showed up to her sessions and crushed each challenge put in front of her.
Jane changed my life during that admission; I knew the barriers I had to running were all in my head and I needed to just show up. I finally took to the trails and ran (well, mostly walked) my first mile on June 1, 2019. Images of Jane and various patients came to my mind throughout that run–they never quit, neither will I became my running mantra. And after many training miles, I ran my first official road race, a 15K in Chicago in November of 2019, with plans for a Half Marathon in April of 2020.
Currently, I work for both Boston Children’s Hospital Center for Translational Science Unit and Brigham and Women’s Hospital Center for Clinical Investigation as the Director of Nutrition and Metabolic Research. In this new role, I have seen countless kiddos, battling rare diseases with no known cures or treatments. Much like my Spaulding patients, these families and kiddos will stop at nothing to find their possible. Every day since I started at Boston Children’s, I leave feeling more inspired than the day before—these kiddos have some of the rarest diseases on the planet and yet smile their way through their infusions, surgeries, and experimental treatments.
In March of 2020 I got my own rare disease with no known cure: COVID-19. The weekend before my symptoms set in, I had finally completed a double digit run and I was SO overwhelmed with excitement for all the 2020 races I was going to do. For over 9 months I was running almost 6 times a week, multiple days of cross training, and crushing my mileage goals. Within two days of being diagnosed with COVID-19, running any races that year was out of the question in my mind. A few days later, walking was too hard, and I had to resort to crawling if I needed to leave my bed. After 20 anxiety-filled, bedbound days I was so thankful to be one of the COVID-19 survivors—but everything had changed.
Prior to getting COVID-19, I only ran alone. I never joined a running group or hung out with other runners (except for my awesome virtual running mate from Connecticut!). I suffered imposter syndrome and thought I was never a “real runner” because my splits weren’t fast enough, others could run 3 miles in the same time I would run only 1 mile. After COVID, the new onset immobility issues and muscle atrophy that no one talks about, made even sitting painful much less walking. Despite being a lone-wolf runner, I reached out to Dr. Ian Nurse at Wellness in Motion Boston (WIMB) to help me get back on my feet. He first asked me how many miles I used to run and every time I answered I would make sure to say, “but I’m not very fast…” or “I’m not like a ‘real runner’ I’m pretty slow.” I always had to throw in these caveats, I knew that Olympic trial runners are treated at WIMB and here I was coming in for bedbound immobility. After a few weeks at WIMB I realized that these imposter fears were all in my head. For the first time, I felt like I had found a community who didn’t care that I was slower or haven’t (yet) ran a marathon, because we were showing up and finding our possible.
After months of rehabbing at WIMB and countless virtual running sessions, I ran 3 back-to-back virtual Half Marathons in July of 2020. With big running goals for 2021 (I’m looking at you Boston Marathon!) I’m so honored and thrilled to be running in these Saucony limited-edition, “Shoes with Soul”. As a real runner who dedicates each training runs to a former patient, I’m excited about the visual reminder of the beautiful 10-year-old, Jordynn who designed my shoes. Her optimism and positivity shine bright on these unicorn (go Boston!), rainbow, and glitter-filled Saucony Kinvara 11 running shoes. Despite having over 35 surgeries (and counting) for a rare genetic disorder, Jordynn never quits—and neither will I.
Demsina Babazadeh, MPH, RDN, LDN, CNSC