Health-care team serves Special Olympics athletes
Story by Ryan Kryska
GCU News Bureau
Stephanie Herrick Kays took a call last year from Special Olympics Arizona, asking her if she’d be interested in putting together a team capable of providing hundreds of the Olympics’ athletes with physical examinations.
Herrick Kays, an instructor for the College of Nursing and Health Care Professions, said yes.
The follow-up question from the Olympics’ Health Programs Manager, Amanda Metcalf, was if Herrick Kays could make it happen in two weeks. To that, she said yes again.
“There was a need and we meet the needs of the community,” said Herrick Kays, who works with students in the college’s family nurse practitioner program. “I always have been called to work with children.”
Herrick Kays said help came from every which direction to meet the tight deadline — that includes athletic training, the prelicensure program, faculty, staff, alumni, and husbands and wives.
“My prayer was to give me enough people to get through this,” Herrick Kays said. “It truly was God that did all this. I can’t say enough how grateful I am for everyone that showed up.”
The team helped 229 athletes with special needs this past year and served 308 more last week with an even larger group of volunteers.
“It was amazing to see how it all worked out,” Herrick Kays said. “Just some of the kids, to see them back and see them progress, was amazing.”
Herrick Kays said the event is inspiring but also is extremely helpful for GCU students learning how to react in the field. She said the team collected a preliminary diagnosis of musculoskeletal problems and heart murmurs more than once.
“That’s what was cool for my students, they were able to see these conditions and have a better understanding of the content we cover in class,” Herrick Kays said.
The event was at the Arizona Recreation Center for the Handicapped, about 2 miles east of the University on Colter Street.
“The Medfest event was such a rewarding experience,” said Tristyn Toribio, a junior studying athletic training at GCU. “I was able to utilize my skills of taking vitals such as blood pressure, temperature and pulse. … A little boy told me I was pretty as I was taking his blood pressure. That truly made my day.”
Athletes formed a line through the gymnasium, with activities for those waiting or already checked in on one side and the clinic area on the other side. The athletes came from local school districts and will compete in sports from bocce ball to basketball, racquetball and cheerleading, all the way to chess.
“It gives me goosebumps,” Herrick Kays said. “Children, especially children with low income, if there is something I can do to make their lives better, I’m going to do it. If I can give them that sports physical they can’t afford, hopefully I’m going to give them a path.
“It’s a self-esteem boost and gives them that moment of pride.”
Herrick Kays recalls one athlete in particular who was overwhelmed for the exam last year but was all smiles this time around.
“Just the change in him was amazing,” she said. “What I tell my students and anyone going through health care is God gives us the skills to take care of His people, we just have to be aware of what the needs are.”
Contact Ryan Kryska at (602) 639-8415 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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