A Brain-Eating Virus Is No Match for Spartan Tim Frame

A Brain-Eating Virus Is No Match for Spartan Tim Frame
Presented by Spartan Training®

If you met Tim Frame six years ago, you would have hired him as your personal trainer. Not only that, but you would have hired him to help you train for your next race. Tim was 5-foot-11, 148 pounds, chiseled, passionate, affable, confident, with a strong jaw and combed-back black hair, a proud father to an athletic son. He was the kind of person everyone either wants to be or wants to be with. You might have even asked him on a date if he weren’t already up to his eyes in love with Lori, his wife.

This was before he forgot who she was.

Tim had never been sick a day in his life, so when he woke up one morning with a painful pressure in his right temple, he wasn’t sure what to do. “Do I take Excedrin? Motrin? Tylenol?” he asked Lori, laughing. He took some Excedrin and started to get ready for the day.


After breakfast, what started as a dull headache became sharper. Tim started to worry. Were headaches normally this bad? He alerted Lori to the growing pain in his head.

“Maybe we should try Percocet?” she suggested. Hopeful, Tim took some. Hours passed, but the medication still had no effect. The pain grew and grew until it was unbearable. By noon, Tim was in agony, and Lori was bewildered. After a panicked call to the hospital, Lori took Tim to the emergency room.

A strong dose of morphine and three hours of tests later, doctors diagnosed Tim with a severe sinus infection. Lori was relieved, but something didn’t sit right. Tim took some antibiotics and went home. That night, the pain had dulled to the point where he could drift into sleep.

Tim’s Headache Goes Missing—Along with Everything Else

The next day, Tim awoke to find his headache completely gone. Elated, he turned to his wife and said, “Let’s go to 7-11 and get some running shoes.”

At first, Lori was taken aback. *That was an odd thing to say, *she thought to herself. Probably nothing to worry about. Lori shook these thoughts from her head and got dressed. Tim got out of bed, full of energy and beaming, and got in the shower. After a few minutes, Tim called out to Lori over the muted hiss of running water.

“Honey, where’s the soap?”

“It’s where it always is, Tim.” *He’s just messing with me, *she thought.

“And the shampoo?”

This went on and on. Nothing was out of its usual place, but still it was ... missing. Tim got out of the shower and took a shirt out of his dresser.

“Punkin, whose shirt is this?”

Lori turned and saw Tim holding his favorite shirt, which he’d had for at least ten years. He still wore a goofy, almost cartoonish grin. Lori tried to stay calm and took a shower. When she got out, Tim was gone. Lori peered out the window and saw him wandering in the backyard, looking unusually happy. He seemed to be looking for something, but Lori couldn’t imagine what. She hurried outside, on the edge of panic.

“What—what are you doing, Tim?” she asked. Tim stopped and turned to her slowly with empty eyes.

“I’m looking for my daughter.”

Lori stood still with wide eyes fixed on this strange man. Tim didn’t have a daughter. He had a step-daughter, Bailey, who was spending the weekend at her dad’s house.

“Bailey’s not here today, Tim,” Lori tried to explain. “She’s with her dad.”

“I just saw her,” said Tim. He had the look of a lost child.

In minutes, Lori and Tim were back in the car on their way to the hospital. When they arrived, Lori demanded that the doctors do more research. They performed a spinal tap, and they found that the situation was far worse than anyone had imagined. Tim had viral encephalitis, and for the previous three days, it had been eating away at his brain. The doctors told Lori that Tim would likely die.

“If he does wake up after surgery,” they said, “He’s not going to be himself. He’s going to be a vegetable. Be ready for that.”

Lori’s world was crumbling. Tim was the love of her life, her soulmate. Her heart, which for so many years had steeped in her husband’s love, choked in the dry, empty air of separation. As she collapsed into a chair, a desperate fear surged from the pit of her stomach and rose up to her eyes, overflowing in tears onto the floor in the lonely waiting room. She wept. And as her body shook with sobs, she mouthed a silent prayer. “Please save my Tim.”

The doctors wheeled Tim to the emergency room to do all they could.

Tim Wakes Up, Meets Lori

Lori waited in the hospital, praying during the day and crying at night. Tim lay motionless on the hospital bed. On day two, he started to move a little. On day three, he opened his eyes and turned to Lori.

“Hey punkin!” he said, smiling.

Lori’s heart jumped. “Do you know who I am, Tim?” She prayed. Tim looked at her with bright, wakeful eyes, the same eyes that she fell in love with so many years ago.

“No,” he said. “But you’re cute.”

Lori did not know how to feel. She asked him who he was. He was confused and couldn’t answer. She took out her phone and scrolled through pictures of people Tim’s best friends, but the images floated past Tim’s eyes without any connection. She asked him if he was married. He nodded, and gave the name of his ex-wife, whom he divorced more than ten years before. His eyes were calm and glassy.

While at first Lori hoped that Tim was still under the effects of a massive dose of drugs, cognitive testing made it clear that Tim had lost about 25 years of his long-term memory. He was back in 1990. Not only did he not know who Lori was, but the memories of falling in love with her, his personal training business, his children, his home, even who he had become—had dissolved.

For the next few weeks, Tim remained in intensive care. He began to trust his wife, whom he perceived simply as his nurse. In addition to his severe amnesia, Tim’s blood coursed with psychoactive medications—anti-seizure drugs, steroids to rebuild his brain tissue, and anti-viral medication to suppress the remainder of the virus. As a result, he hardly resembled his former self. His passion was gone. On top of that, the seizure medication brought his emotional maturity down to the level of a five-year-old.

When he finally left the ICU to return home, he changed even more. It started with food; Tim’s steroids put his appetite on overdrive. One day, Lori came down the stairs and found 19 energy bar wrappers strewn across the kitchen counter. Tim had eaten them all in the middle of the night. During most of the day, Tim was bedridden, tethered to a couch by multiple IVs to keep him alive. Tim was comfortable there; along with 25 years of long-term memory, Tim’s love of fitness had dissolved. However, this meant that the calories he would have burnt off when he was healthy began to add up. It didn’t take long before he’d gained 50 pounds.

As he spent more time on the basement couch, he became more estranged from his family. Uninterested in activity, Tim could not relate to his son, let alone run a Spartan Race with him. Trapped in the mind of a child, Tim would not share a bed with Lori. Tim’s family watched in sadness as the man they knew faded away.

A Cardiac Disaster

One day, Tim awoke in the early morning with a numbness, a tingling, and a shooting pain in his leg.

Lori had made Tim promise to wake her if “anything out of the ordinary” happened. He went to her and told her, reluctantly. In seconds, Lori was up and rushing Tim to the hospital.

The doctors began by doing an ultrasound on Tim’s leg. Lori, who stood behind the doctor, watched the screen. There were blood clots in Tim’s leg. Next, the doctors moved to Tim’s lungs. More blood clots appeared as black spots on the screen. Finally, the doctors examined Tim’s heart. Lori’s eyes widened.

“That can’t be good,” she said, pointing to a large, black blob in the middle of Tim’s heart.

Tim was sent out for an X-ray. He returned and sat next to Lori. Minutes later, the doctor returned with the results from the X-ray. He turned to Tim and said, bluntly, “I’m going to be honest with you, sir. This is a fatal event.”

The words echoed in Tim’s ears. Before he had time to think, to process, to get ready to die, he was out, lying on an operating table. Frantic doctors wheeled him to the emergency room.

The Next Seven Months: Reclaiming 20 Lost Years


It took two more months of bedrest, scarring, bruising, and healing for Tim to leave the hospital again. Lori, who simultaneously mourned her husband and cared for him, was always at his side. She fought for him while he healed; she begged the doctors to take Tim off the steroids that landed him back in the emergency room. The doctors listened; Tim took no more steroids after that day. But getting off the steroids did far more than quell Tim’s appetite. It turned a switch in his brain—Tim began to remember the man he used to be.

Who am I? Tim started to think.

As he spent more time with friends and family, he heard stories of the man he used to be. He saw pictures and videos of himself, posing proud at the finish line of a Spartan Race. He met clients he used to coach. He looked at the old picture Lori had made the background image on her phone—Tim from half a year ago, his muscles toned, his eyes lit up with excitement, his arm wrapped tightly around the woman he loved. And then he looked at himself. A fire started to burn in his head.

“This isn’t me,” he thought. “That’s me. That’s who I want to be.”

The next day, Tim asked his doctor for approval to exercise. The order was to start slow: mostly walking, some jogging. “Just don’t push yourself,” the doctor said.

Tim pushed himself.

He started with 30 minutes of light cardio every day at the soccer park near his house. He ran laps. After a few weeks, he added push-ups, sit-ups ... anything to feel like he was moving toward his goal. Then, in January, Tim heard that Spartan Race was coming to town. Flipping through old pictures of himself and his son from previous races, he grew determined.

“I want to be that dad again,” he decided.

Pushing his doctor’s warning to the back of his mind, Tim signed up for what would be the hardest and most important Spartan Race of his life. Months later, the Las Vegas Super hit him like a brick wall.

“I just couldn’t,” says Tim, remembering that race. “I couldn’t get up the rope, I couldn’t do the swings, I struggled on the walls, and I had to do burpees. But it was probably the best thing I’ve ever done in my life because it opened my eyes.”

Tim’s disappointment in himself became motivation, and he committed to working out—hard—every day. He got into a groove, and what was at first relentless commitment became habit. He joined an obstacle gym called Camp Rhino, where he met SGX Coach Julie Johnston and a supportive community of obstacle racers. Thanks to them, Lori’s support, and his own self-determination, Tim lost 50 pounds, ran 550 miles, and did 18,000 push-ups and 5,000 pull-ups between June and September. In fact, since June 10, he hasn’t missed a day.


As Tim grew fitter, his body healed in ways doctors never thought possible. After doctors said he was going to die, he survived. After doctors said he would be a vegetable, he became a machine. Doctors said Tim would never have the same personality, but as he gradually came off his anti-seizure medication, Lori started to see bits and pieces of her old husband’s personality start to return. Despite everything, now Tim was sparking with passion, driven to set new goals, and in better shape than he was the year before.

Lessons in Resilience

At Spartan, we stand in awe of people like Tim and Lori—people who commit to recovery, progress, and improvement. After following Tim through his incredible journey, I asked him what resilience meant to him.

Here’s what he said: “When I think ‘resilient,’ I think getting back up when I’ve been knocked down ... I’ve always considered myself to be a little bit on the lionhearted side. People tell me no, but that doesn’t mean squat to me. I’m gonna keep comin’, and I’m gonna keep fightin’, and you can knock me down, but it’s not going to stop me. Resilience is sticking with it without the bitterness and without the negativity. You have to be able to look at the challenge and fight for what you believe. Set goals for yourself and just keep pushing. Don’t be complacent, and don’t be satisfied with where you are today. We’ve all fallen, but you get back up, and you help others get back up.”

For Tim, resilience also means gratefulness and optimism. “A lot of people get angry when terrible things happen to them, and they don’t understand it, or they get angry at God, or they blame other people. I’ve learned how to celebrate the little things instead. Getting sick made me want to work harder and be better—not just a better athlete, but a better father and better husband, a better person in general. It’s pretty cool to get to wake up every day with that on your mind, thinking, ‘Okay, today’s gonna be the new best day ever.’”

Tim will be the first to say that he wouldn’t have made it without his wife Lori. (Lori will be a close second.) When I asked Lori how she managed to stay hopeful during the ordeal, she gave one reason: love.


“Tim was so strong before he got sick,” says Lori, “and I knew that, if our roles were switched, he would have taken care of me forever. I loved him so much that I was going to do the very same thing for him.”

It was Lori’s willingness to commit to her husband that ultimately saved their relationship. “Our connection is different now,” says Lori, “but it’s coming back—definitely coming back.” After almost losing Tim, Lori has found a new sense of gratefulness. “I appreciate everything now,” she says, “and I take him less for granted than I did before. It was a very tough year, for sure, but I’m proud of myself.”

Amnesiac Becomes Master of Consistency: Updates from Tim Frame

Since the original publication of this piece, Tim has not let up. On September 15, 2016, he celebrated his 365th consecutive day of working out (without a single day off). During those 365 days, Tim completed:

  • 842 miles of running in 181 hours
  • 1,095 miles of cycling in 75 hours
  • 256 hours of miscellaneous cardio
  • 36,600 push-ups (100 per day)
  • 36,600 sit-ups (100 per day)
  • 9,150 pull-ups (25 per day)
  • 9,150 chin-ups (25 per day)
  • 139,800 hand-gripper squeezes (300 to 550 per day)


Tim attributes his incredible success to the support he receives from his local Las Vegas obstacle training gym Camp Rhino. This year at the SoCal Spartan Beast, he claimed his first TRIFECTA with a team of women from his gym.

Last October, Tim competed in the Spartan World Championship at Lake Tahoe. He wrote us an email to us five days afterward, where he told the story of his experience.

He used his volunteering credit to register for the 9:00 a.m. heat. “It was so cool to watch the elites and pros start earlier that morning ... to be there on the course with the best of the best.”

He noted it took more than inspiration from the pros to get himself over the brutal Tahoe terrain. “I wasn’t at my best this day, as I am still nursing a hip issue, and have a significant limp. It’s not pretty and it’s not fast. And since that Beast was pretty much all uphill for the first 7 miles, it was brutal. There were moments while still climbing where it truly felt my body would give out. But I kept rolling.”

Tim was proud to complete all of the obstacles and owe no burpees. In just over seven hours, he finished the World Championship Beast and got his medal. In his words, it was “truly the hardest and most painful thing I’ve ever done, but still the best—and the most rewarding thing I’ve ever felt.”

Tim closed his note to us with this: “I’ve learned so much from this journey and have grown stronger physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. I couldn’t be more grateful to Spartan Race. It’s truly saved my life once again.”