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While his daughter Kate was receiving treatment in our Cardiovascular Intensive Care Unit, few things gave Steven solace like running. Today, he’s using his passion for endurance events to raise funds for groundbreaking pediatric cardiology research. He took a break from training for his upcoming 100-kilometer (62-mile) race to chat with us about what keeps him motivated—even at mile 60!
Our then-15-year-old daughter Kate had been swimming competitively for many years on Team USA. On October 30, 2013, Kate was at an evening swim practice at Stanford University—it was simply another practice like she had been doing for years. Then, we got a call from her coach telling us that Kate was in an ambulance on the way to Stanford Hospital. Kate had come close to passing out during practice. Our first emotional response was that the doctors would tell us she was fine and we could go home. That didn’t happen. We then hoped for an immediate diagnosis that was treatable on an outpatient basis. Worst case scenario, we thought she would have a couple of tests and maybe a shot, and we’d go home. That didn’t happen either.
Kate was admitted to the Cardiovascular Intensive Care Unit at Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital Stanford. At some point, we realized there was not much we could do to alter our new medical reality. We found solace in knowing that our daughter was in the safest possible environment.
The moment we met Dr. Chris Almond and watched him interact with Kate, we knew he was the right doctor for us. Over the past year and a half that he has been caring for Kate, we have deeply appreciated his support. When we go in for appointments, there is virtually no anxiety—there are a lot of smiles and trust. I always know we can depend on Dr. Almond to watch over Kate.
While Kate was a patient, I relied on my endurance training to get me through. To refer to myself as an “athlete” always makes me feel uncomfortable, so maybe I am more of a person who competes in endurance events (marathons, ultramarathons, cycling, swimming, and triathlons). Often, my races are 24 hours or longer, spanning hundreds of miles, sometimes in extreme environments. When I’m competing in a 62-mile running race, I cannot process the enormity of the distance, so I simply run a mile or so at a time. And then I do another mile, and then another mile. I use the concept of micro goals to accomplish the big goal. When Kate was in the hospital, this often meant simply getting to the next procedure and then we’d hang in there until dinnertime and so on.
When I’m competing, I think about the determination I saw and experienced at the hospital: from the alumni parents, hospital staff, and physicians like Dr. Almond, Dr. Roth, Dr. Rosenthal, and so many others.
We are thrilled to report that Kate is a healthy, happy teen who has been accepted to many colleges with scholarships. Even though there’s no way to fully repay Dr. Almond and his team for the gift of health they have given to Kate, I can do my part to support his research on Ventricular Assist Devices and help the pediatric cardiology patients at Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital. Through my fundraising efforts, I hope to inspire other families who are currently facing challenges like what we experienced. To those families, I have one message: there is always hope and strength.
Forever, I will raise funds for LPCH!
On Saturday, February 28, Steven Marra will compete in his third race benefiting our hospital. Please join us in thanking him for his amazing generosity on his Champions for Children fundraising page. Good luck, Steven! We’ll be rooting for you!