Kirsten Landman received a major health scare following the 2023 Dakar Rally when she was diagnosed with pulmonary embolism, a blood clot in an artery in the lungs that results in blood flow being blocked and could be fatal if left untreated. Fortunately for Landman, after three months of rehabilitation, she revealed on social media Friday that she has been cleared to return to riding and physical training.
According to blood testing during initial evaluations, she had been diagnosed with long COVID—or the long-term effects of COVID-19 that can surface well after one had been infected and recovered—stemming from having COVID-19 during the Dakar Rally, which she figured explained her severe fatigue during the middle stages. Landman had attributed her tiredness to a bout with the flu prior to doing her check-up.
“Please forgive my silence as I wasn’t able to update as I didn’t know where this was going. But now I have clarity,” began Landman’s post. “So the last 3 months since return from Dakar have been a medical rollercoaster.
“2 weeks after Dakar (beginning of Feb) I started training again – with an exceptionally high heart rate with low level exertion I knew something wasn’t right. Rushing off to a cardiologist and having bloods & ECG’s I was diagnosed with ‘Long COVID’ with my blood tests revealing I had COVID at Dakar (explains why I was so sick) – recovery going forward I was told not to exert my hr over 150bpm for an indefinite time. This didn’t sit well with me – as I wanted a proper diagnosis and understanding of what and why I had this and a understanding of what was to come on the road to recovery. I was referred to an amazing cardiologist Dr who deals with athletes with problems like this.
“After a heart MRI, lung and heart sonar Dr A diagnosed me with a pulmonary embolism. Explanation: A pulmonary embolism (PE) is a blood clot in the blood vessels of your lung. This happens when a clot in another part of your body (often your leg or arm) moves through the veins to your lung. A PE restricts blood flow to your lungs, lowers oxygen levels in your lungs and increases blood pressure in your pulmonary arteries. Without quick treatment, a pulmonary embolism can cause heart or lung damage and even death.
“Luckily we were quick to act – and recovery was to be taken very seriously. The last 3 months I haven’t been able to do anything more than walking my dogs or exerting my heart rate over 120bpm. It’s been extremely frustrating and worrying as Dr said to me recovery wasn’t definite. This diagnosis worst case wasn’t only career ending but more worrying it was life threatening.
“I’ve been on blood thinners daily and slowly my heart rate has been dropping. This time hasn’t been easy, after a lot of soul searching. Trusting the process and allowing my body to heal in it’s own time I’ve been given the clear to start riding and training again.”
Perhaps making her effort all the more impressive, Landman competed in the Malle Moto class for riders without any outside assistance and reached the finish. The only female rider in the subcategory, she placed twelfth and forty-eighth in the broader Rally2 class.
She did not confirm any racing plans for the rest of 2023 and beyond, including another shot at the Dakar Rally, as she tries to re-acclimate herself to physical activity again. 2022 was her second attempt at the race after finishing fifty-fifth overall in 2020.