HSC medical team assists runners of all ages during The Cowtown

By Diane Smith-Pinckney

Cowtown

Curt Holliday has a rhythm that keeps him moving long distances – run 45 seconds, walk 20 seconds.

The 83-year-old Fort Worth resident has been an avid runner since he was about 48. He has participated in The Cowtown Half Marathon about nine times.

But this year, as Holliday finished The Cowtown Half Marathon, he felt disoriented. His legs cramped. He needed to sit down. Then, he collapsed.

“The next thing I knew, I was being wheeled to the medical tent,” said Holliday, who was experiencing dehydration.

Holliday received on-the-spot care thanks to a medical team made up of physicians and students from The University of North Texas Health Science Center at Fort Worth (HSC).

HSC is a founding partner of The Cowtown. Every year, HSC physicians and students manage the event’s entire onsite medical response.

“The medical team from HSC is vital for the execution of our event,” said Heidi Swartz, executive director of The Cowtown. “They have been steadfast since the beginning in 1979 and we appreciate their ongoing commitment, professionalism and expertise as they continue to provide stellar medical care to The Cowtown runners each and every year.”

Holliday said his experience was a reminder that runners need to drink plenty of water.

A community of runners

Every year, The Cowtown draws thousands of participants, including many senior citizens.

Holliday was the oldest male runner in the Half Marathon, but he wasn’t the oldest participant – an 84-year-old female runner took that title. The oldest runner in the 10K was an 83-year-old while the oldest runner in the 5K was 93.

The oldest participant in the virtual 5K was 102.

“We have a really good senior population in the Metroplex that are runners,” said Swartz. “They are all amazing.”

Vicki Cannon, BSN, RN and Executive Director, Clinical Services/Chief Nursing Officer at HSC, said exercise is important for all age groups but it is even more important for senior citizens.

“As we age, our bodies don’t recover or respond as quickly as they once did,” Cannon said. “Exercising helps boost the immune system and our body’s ability to fight infection and disease and is essential in preventing and improving certain medical conditions. Seniors can benefit from exercise with improved balance, cognition and certain mental illnesses. Some of the greatest benefits of physical activity is longevity, improved quality of life and overall wellbeing.”

Water is also essential.

“It’s extremely important to stay hydrated all the time, not just with exercise,” Cannon said. “Water helps to keep us healthy and alert, and when exercising, it reduces the risk of heat stroke. When you exercise, you risk dehydration, where the body loses fluid through sweat.”

Cannon has long known Holliday as “The Patriarch of The Running Family.” That’s because Holliday leads a running group “every Saturday morning, come rain or shine to run together, motivate and encourage each other and most importantly to maintain health-minded relationships,” she said.

The only time Holliday missed a running event was because he was in the hospital during an ice storm, Cannon said.

“He underwent a procedure, that for most people, requires a three-to-four-week recovery time,” Cannon said. “Not Curt Holliday, following the procedure, he was out running the family in less than a week. He is one of the most determined people I’ve ever met!”

Holliday describes running as second nature to him.

“It’s something you do – like brushing your teeth. You get up in the morning, you have to go run,” Holliday said.

‘The most important person in the medical tent’

During the 2021 Half Marathon, Holliday started experiencing problems about one mile into the race when his watch stopped. He lost his running rhythm.

“Suddenly I don’t know how to run anymore because I have no beeps,” Holliday said, adding that he was OK until about the fifth mile when he got hot.

“I was sweating a lot,” Holliday said, explaining that he didn’t get thirsty.

By the end of the race, he was too weak. Medical staff took him to a tent where he received an EKG. Efforts to give Holliday an IV didn’t work, he said.

“They tried both arms but I was so dehydrated that could not get the needle in,” Holliday said. “They gave me warm salt water and told me I could not leave until my blood pressure, which was 73/60 got up to 100.”

“I was being attended by at least six people and felt like I was the most important person in the medical tent,” Holliday stated in a “Thank You” email to The Cowtown medical staff.

Zachary Sumner, who recently graduated from Texas College of Osteopathic Medicine (TCOM), was one of several HSC students on the medical team.

Helping runners like Holliday is one reason why Sumner volunteers with the medical team.

“Volunteering at The Cowtown marathon is my favorite thing to do every year,” said Sumner, who plans to practice family medicine. “It is an amazing opportunity to serve the community. Cowtown relies on us to provide medical coverage for the races and it’s really fun to get to be a part of the team.”

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