By David Lain, PhD, JD, FAARC, FCCP, RRT, RCP
|The Ochsner Ironman 70.3 New Orleans 2013 is in the books. Race day was April 21st. The conditions were nearly perfect and the professional athletes provided one of the most exciting finishes for 70.3 miles on record. My time was not as impressive as the professionals — not even close to my best time — but I raced for another reason. I raced to support Ochsner.
Years ago, I worked at Memorial Medical Center in Savannah, Georgia. There, we had a top-level neonatal unit, and like all NICUs, we’d occasionally reach capacity. As part of our neonatal program we had a neonatal transport team, of which I was a member. We’d transport babies to and from our hospital via ambulance, helicopter and fixed wing. Some of our longest transports landed us at Ochsner. While I never worked at Ochsner, those transports, their receiving teams, and the shared spirit left me with a binding impression. I was determined to race the Ironman 70.3 in New Orleans because of Ochsner.
What is impressive is that Ochsner supports an event where the participants are often at the opposite end of a spectrum of wellness compared to the individuals they treat. Ochsner is not alone in this pursuit.
Herman Hospital in Texas supports an Ironman 140.6 event. This is the longest Ironman distance made popular by the annual Ironman World Championship held in Kona, Hawaii. Kaiser-Permanente sponsors an event, as do many other hospitals with events ranging from 5K runs to marathons as well as triathlons. Hospitals offer more to the community than a place to go when you are sick or injured.
Hospitals are vital to a community. Of course, they are the haven for health care, but health care goes beyond managing the infirmed. One hospital, and probably others, offers a fitness gym within its Cardiac and Pulmonary Rehab Center. The patient with lung disease or the runner preparing for her next 10K race could occupy treadmills positioned side-by-side. There, in that center, side-by-side, were athletes and patient-athletes.
At a rehab program in Tennessee I was introduced to two gentlemen just after they’d finished an hour on a treadmill. During their workout they were side-by-side and glancing over observing the speed to which their neighbor’s treadmill had been set. It was possible to watch one, see him cut his eyes over, and then momentarily increase is speed. Then, naturally, his colleague repeated the maneuver. What I learned is that neither man could make it into the building without assistance when they enrolled into the program. Several weeks later, both men completed the hospital’s 5K event. They didn’t set records or place in their age groups. But they both earned more than a finisher’s medal.
Hospitals can inspire individuals; they are filled with inspiring people. When our hospitals extend and promote health and wellness it goes noticed. Those of us that participate in sporting events and work in health care recognize that at anytime we can become patient-athletes.