LOUISVILLE, Ky. –University of Louisville student marathon runners joined their pediatric patient “running buddies” today to mark the end of the Kentucky Derby Festival Mini-Marathon and Medals4Mettle season. The student runners gave their marathon medals to their partners at a ceremony held on the UofL Health Sciences campus.
This was the third year that UofL students and pediatric patients participated in Medals4Mettle, an Indianapolis-based program that connects athletes and critically ill patients.
As a part of their training for the race, many of the students exchanged e-mails and phone calls with their patient partners and kept vigil through doctor visits and grueling chemotherapy treatments.
Opening the ceremony, Salvatore Bertolone, M.D., chief of the UofL Division of Pediatric Hematology/Oncology and Blood and Marrow Transplant, told the group of medical student runners, their cancer patient partners and family members, “(If you don’t have firsthand knowledge of childhood cancer), it doesn’t have a name, it doesn’t cry, it doesn’t have a family. And now it does (thanks to Medals4Mettle).”
“It’s a really wonderful program,” said Chrystal Brigman, who believes that it helps both the patient and student connect on a closer level than is typical of doctor-patient relationships. Her five-year-old son, Samuel Adams, has acute lymphocytic leukemia.
More than 100 people gathered for today’s medal ceremony. Four of the patients were also able to cross the finish line with their medical student partners.
“It made it easier to run the race, knowing that Dawson was waiting and that I would be greeted by his big smile, said third-year medical student Brent Roach, who carried five-year-old Dawson Barr across the finish line.
“It’s humbling that someone who doesn’t know my child would be willing to do this. It’s amazing to me that these students have so much dedication to their profession and so much thoughtfulness,” said Dawson’s mother Aimee Barr. Dawson was diagnosed with brain cancer at 6 months old.
The 52 patients who participated in this year’s program are being treated for a variety of conditions, including brain cancer, acute lymphocytic leukemia and sickle cell disease.