Canadian Olympic hopeful Joanna Brown is finally on her way back to North America after an almost two-week ordeal dealing with a kidney infection in Lisbon, Portugal. Yesterday Professional Triathlon News posted a podcast on Instagram in which American Chelsea Burns described what Brown has been dealing with over the last two weeks, and then announced a gofund.me fundraiser to “help fund her last minute and non-covered journey home.”
The Instagram post has now been taken down, but in it we learned that:
- Brown broke her nose during the warm-up before the World Triathlon Championship Series Yokohama race, but was still able to compete at the event in Japan, finishing 13th.
- On her arrival in Portugal to compete in the Mixed Team Relay Olympic Qualification race, she learned that the two male athletes scheduled to compete in the relay had decided not to compete in the race. Since she was dealing with back pain, she would also eventually pull out of the relay event. (We reported on this last week.)
- Over the course of the week leading up to the World Triathlon Cup Lisbon race she would end up having to go to hospital a few times because of back pain that was eventually diagnosed as a kidney infection.
- After initially being put on antibiotics, it appeared that she would be able to fly back to the United States, where she’s currently training, but a positive COVID antigen test meant that she wasn’t able to travel, but that became a moot point as she ended up back in hospital as she required a different antibiotic to treat what Burns says was diagnosed as an “atypical bacterial infection” which she says might have come from the water in Japan.
- Because of the positive antigen test, Brown is put on a COVID floor in the first hospital, then when she is sent to another hospital is literally locked in her room for four days and told she would have to finish out 14 days of quarantine in Portugal. Eventually she has another COVID test which comes back negative.
- Brown is eventually sent to another hospital where she continues to receive IV antibiotics and recovers enough that she is finally able to fly home, only to have her credit card declined by TAP. (“I went to bed last night after being in tears on the phone with my best friend as TAP Portugal declined my credit card and the world threw yet another act of defiance my way,” Brown wrote on Facebook.)
- “She doesn’t have any insurance coverage from her credit card or the airline and she’s not getting any assistance from Triathlon Canada for this funding, so its entirely on her,” Burns said in the podcast.
- Burns then started up the GoFund.me page to help with Brown’s expenses. In less than two hours US$1,390 was raised and donations were shut down. One of the first people to donate was world champion Flora Duffy. “We literally got what we were looking for in two hours – we got her travel paid for,” Burns said. “All we wanted was to pay for that. The support was unreal – many people have reached out asking how they can help.”
This morning Triathlon Canada put out a statement “correcting inaccuracies” in the podcast. You can read the full statement below. According to the statement, Triathlon Canada’s High Performance Director Eugene Liang “changed his flights in order to stay in Portugal while Joanna was in hospital” and won’t be leaving Portugal until tomorrow. The statement also says that “Triathlon Canada’s High Performance Coordinator, Lauren Nutt, was in daily contact with Joanna before, during and after the race weekend in Portugal while supporting the team from Canada. Lauren supported Joanna by arranging for the ambulance in Portugal, worked behind the scenes to make sure her hospital stay was covered, assisted with cancelling her flight and researching insurance claims.”
Brown also issued a statement, which you can read in full below, too.
“It is safe to say that absolutely nothing has gone to plan on this trip, but I am now out of hospital, and I finally have a flight booked home tonight,” she wrote. “I can’t wait to get my feet back underneath me. The folks at @protrinews captured most of my journey, but I need to clarify a few of the statements made about my current experience while in hospital in Portugal. I have been carried through this with so much help from so many.”
Full Statement from Triathlon Canada
Triathlon Canada became aware of a podcast posted to social media by Professional Triathlon News that contained numerous inaccuracies with regards to Joanna Brown’s medical status in Portugal and Triathlon Canada’s support for its athletes.
The following is a statement by Triathlon Canada’s Chief Executive Officer, Kim Van Bruggen, correcting those inaccuracies.
“Joanna Brown traveled to Lisbon, Portugal from the World Triathlon Championship Series in Yokohama, Japan to compete in a World Cup race. Upon arrival, she advised team leaders that she required medical support and was unable to compete. While we will keep the details of her medical situation confidential out of respect to Joanna, I can confirm the Canadian team’s medical staff at home, Triathlon Canada’s High Performance Director Eugene Liang, along the local organizing committee’s medical team worked alongside Joanna to ensure she received medical care.
The moment it was determined that Joanna was going to have to stay in hospital, Triathlon Canada’s High-Performance Director changed his flights in order to stay in Portugal while Joanna was in hospital. Eugene was unable to visit Joanna in hospital as she was isolated due to COVID concerns, however, he remained in regular daily contact with Joanna, the doctors in Portugal, Triathlon Canada’s medical team and Joanna’s coach in Canada. At no time was Joanna left on her own, or without support from Triathlon Canada.
In addition, Triathlon Canada’s High Performance Coordinator, Lauren Nutt, was in daily contact with Joanna before, during and after the race weekend in Portugal while supporting the team from Canada. Lauren supported Joanna by arranging for the ambulance in Portugal, worked behind the scenes to make sure her hospital stay was covered, assisted with cancelling her flight and researching insurance claims.
I can confirm that Joanna was well enough to be released from hospital, and is scheduled to depart Lisbon on May 28. Eugene Liang is scheduled to depart Lisbon on May 29.
Triathlon Canada is grateful Joanna is now able to travel home and begin the road to recovery so she can refocus in her final preparations and qualifying period on the road to Tokyo.
In closing, Triathlon Canada does not understand why an athlete from another country would reveal highly inaccurate information that would normally be treated as confidential within a program to which they do not belong, and why the Professional Triathlon News podcast would seemingly substantiate the information by posting the podcast without contacting Triathlon Canada or Joanna Brown herself.”
…Kim Van Bruggen, CEO
Statement From Joanna Brown
“I went to bed last night after being in tears on the phone with my best friend as TAP Portugal declined my credit card and the world threw yet another act of defiance my way. I woke up to see an immense outpouring of support from the triathlon community, and instead of frustrated tears, I had a few grateful ones
It is safe to say that absolutely nothing has gone to plan on this trip, but I am now out of hospital, and I finally have a flight booked home tonight. I can’t wait to get my feet back underneath me.
The folks at @protrinews captured most of my journey, but I need to clarify a few of the statements made about my current experience while in hospital in Portugal. I have been carried through this with so much help from so many.
The support from my coach, my friends, my family, and the local organizing committee have been immense. Triathlon Canada’s High Performance Director stayed behind to liaise with medical professionals in Portugal and at home, and will be the last man out of Portugal. Our High Performance Coordinator was working daily behind the scenes to make sure my hospital stay was covered while also supporting me by cancelling my flight and by researching insurance claims.
I know my illness has had further reaching effects than just my own mental state. I want to apologize to my teammates who were able to overcome this distraction and race the relay and the individual events this weekend where they made Canada proud.
For now, I’m going to keep hydrating and to try and make my kidneys hate me a bit less. A few weeks left on the road to Tokyo.
Thank you everyone.”
… Joanna Brown