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Chicago-area nurse takes part in triathlon to raise funds for patient with locked-in syndrome

Friday August 29, 2014
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Mary Jo Harte, RN, was featured online at ESPN.com in an article detailing her participation in a Chicago sprint triathlon Aug. 24. Harte’s motivation for participating in the event was Patrick Stein, a young patient who suffered a massive stroke at age 18 that left him paralyzed and with locked-in syndrome. Because of his condition, Stein cannot produce speech, limb or facial movements, but he can communicate by blinking, which his family and nurses can translate into letters and words based on a spellboard, according to the ESPN article.

Harte, 55, competed in her first Life Time Tri Chicago triathlon in 2012, when she finished 1,032nd out of 1,033 women, according to the article. “That was like it, period,” Harte said in the article. “I wanted to finish it and hoped they wouldn’t be closing it down before I crossed the finish line.”

This year, her third year participating in the triathlon, she has a trainer helping her prepare. “I’m so proud of her,” trainer JP Bordeleau, said in the article. “I mean, she has every excuse not to do it. She was almost 300 pounds. It’s easy for her to say, ‘I can’t do it.’ That to me is more motivating than watching an elite athlete, an Olympian.”
Harte, a 35-year nurse who has tried her hand at stand-up comedy, connected with Stein through laughter, according to the article. “I think the humor bridged a lot of things,” Harte said in the article. “It allowed me to joke about things that might be uncomfortable. It allowed him to tease me about things, and he learned very quickly that if he teased me, I was fine. I laughed. It didn’t hurt my feelings. I didn’t feel disrespected. So I think we got to a trusting place through humor.”

Her participation in the triathlon is to raise money for Stein’s 24-hour care, which can cost about $500,000 a year, according to the article. So far, she has raised $15,000 and hopes to raise much more with a team of 25. “You’re never too old, you’re never too fat, you’re never too inactive,” she said in the article. “You can always do something. That’s what he [Patrick] said to me. ‘There’s so many things you can do.’”

Read the full ESPN article at http://es.pn/1kYC3qh.


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