U-M Rehab nurse runs first half marathon: “I run for them. 13.1 miles is nothing compared to their journey.”

Inspired by patients with spinal injuries, 31-year-old nurse Kristina McCahill runs Detroit race to raise money for charity

U-M Registered Nurse Kristina McCahill finishes half marathon in Detroit.

U-M Registered Nurse Kristina McCahill finishes half marathon in Detroit.

As a nurse in the adult rehab unit at the University of Michigan Health System, I often work with patients who wake up in the hospital to discover they’ve suffered severe spinal, neurodevelopmental or traumatic brain injuries from a life-changing accident they may not even remember.

Many spend weeks – even months – in our Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation unit learning and re-learning everyday life skills. Many are adjusting to wheelchairs, difficult medical challenges and new lives going forward.

I am constantly amazed by their strength and perseverance and I felt compelled to do something to honor them.

On Sunday, I ran my first half marathon in the Detroit Free Press Talmer Bank Marathon race. It was a long, sweaty and tiring 13.1 miles for someone who just started running this year but still nothing compared to the journey our patients face.

I’m running to raise money for the Sue Maher fund, a charity named after a well-loved U-M occupational therapist who died from cancer. The charity helps patients on our floor after they’re home, providing them with ramps and other equipment their insurance either doesn’t cover or doesn’t fully cover. So far I’ve raised more than $1,000 but I’ve decided to continue the mission with a new goal of raising $2,000 by Oct.27.

kristinaBlog2My source of inspiration comes from patients like Vanessa Lavin. She was a marathon runner, fitness instructor and outdoor enthusiast before a pontoon accident that led her to our rehab unit with severe spinal injuries. Always positive, making jokes and working hard in therapy, this incredible mother of two is my unofficial personal trainer who listens to my first-time runner tales and motivates me to keep going.

In U-M’s Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation unit, or floor 6A as we call it, we see many patients like Vanessa who are at the beginning of a very difficult journey. We all want to see them succeed and live to the best of their ability when they leave our hospital’s doors.

I am by no means a good runner. I never have been. I don’t plan on winning anything. I run because I know it’s a gift we take for granted and because it’s something I can do to help the people I meet and care so much about.


KristinaBlogBoilerKristina McCahill is a 31-year-old registered nurse at the U-M Health System who lives in the Canton area. Learn more about her fundraiser here: http://umhealth.me/suemaher




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Many of the nation’s most well-known and accomplished rehabilitation professionals manage and staff programs run by the UMHS Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation Department. Learn more about our PM & R programs here: http://www.med.umich.edu/pmr/