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400-plus runners check in at hospital’s Stroke Awareness 5K

Runners and walkers take off from the start line during the Mercy Medical Center Merced's Stroke Awareness 5K in Merced, Calif., Saturday, May 2, 2015. According to hospital spokesman, Bob McLaughlin, more than 400 participants signed up for today's event.
Runners and walkers take off from the start line during the Mercy Medical Center Merced's Stroke Awareness 5K in Merced, Calif., Saturday, May 2, 2015. According to hospital spokesman, Bob McLaughlin, more than 400 participants signed up for today's event. akuhn@mercedsunstar.com

More than 400 people – some in tutus and pirate costumes – crossed the finish line at Mercy Medical Center’s Stroke Awareness 5K on Saturday morning.

The fourth annual event raised about $10,000 for the hospital’s stroke program.

The run-walk and health fair is held every year in observance of Stroke Awareness Month. The event aims to promote physical activity as well as provide the community with education on stroke prevention and detection.

The hospital was also celebrating its five-year anniversary. On May 2, 2010, Mercy Medical Center Merced opened its doors to the community at its current Mercy Avenue location.

Saturday’s fair included dozens of tables and booths offering free medical screenings and information on health services. A number of people lined up to get their blood pressure and glucose checked, while others learned about the signs and symptoms of strokes.

Bob McLaughlin, a hospital spokesman said one attendee who had not been feeling well decided to take a stroke risk assessment test because of pain in his left arm. The test revealed he was actually having a stroke at the time. The man was immediately admitted to the hospital.

The health fair allows people to get the services that they sometimes avoid, McLauhglin said. “Here (at the health fair) it’s a more relaxed atmosphere, you can go up and get a test without being in a doctor’s office.”

Other groups, such as Merced Pediatric Dentistry, Valley Vein Health Center and La Sierra Care Center were also present.

The San Joaquin Valley Air District and the Merced County Asthma Coalition were at the health fair answering questions about air quality, asthma triggers and nebulizers.

April Ornelas, a Merced resident and event participant, is an asthmatic parent with an asthmatic child. She said her child is not allowed to go outside on days with poor air quality. Her child’s school, she said, currently uses a color-coded air quality index to inform students when they should stay indoors.

On Saturday, she stopped at the coalition’s booth where she learned about real-time air quality measurement tools available on the Air District’s website.

Prudy Mook, from the National Alliance of Mental Illnesses of Merced County, was passing out information regarding the organization’s classes and support groups.

Mook said at community events, such as the hospital’s health fair, passersby usually stop to get information for friends or family members. People usually know at least one person who may benefit from NAMI’s services, she said.

“Our goal is to help people navigate the mental health system,” Mook said. “We’re a great starting point, and here’s where we get the word out.”

The event also included a medal ceremony for the 5K’s top runners, prize giveaways, and a rock climbing activity for children.

Sun-Star staff writer Ana B. Ibarra can be reached at (209) 385-2486 or aibarra@mercedsunstar.com. Follow her on Twitter @ab_ibarra

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