Nurse who volunteers at marathons inspired by runners

02/20/2014 11:11 PM

11/12/2014 3:57 PM

Ask Katie Powers what a marathon runner and a nursing mother have in common and she’ll say two words:

Vital signs.

Blood pressure tops the checklist of this nurse from Bradenton, Fla., when she’s at her regular job, helping new mothers.

Same goes for when she volunteers in the medical tents of major U.S. marathons. She has returned to Fort Worth this weekend to help out at the Cowtown Marathon.

On April 21, she plans to be back in the medical tent at the Boston Marathon, where last year, two bombs exploded near the finish line.

Powers and other volunteers were suddenly called on to be emergency-room professionals, no matter their backgrounds.

And there was anguish, Powers said, especially when they saw one of the first victims brought to the tent, a young man who lost his legs.

“I think we always wonder what we’d do in a tragic event,” she said. “You wonder if you’d stay or run.

“A friend of mine said, ‘I can’t do this. I’m a primary care nurse.’ I turned to him and said, ‘I’m a baby nurse. We don’t have a choice.’

“But everybody there was amazing. Our job was to stabilize patients to get them onto ambulances. We seamlessly went from sophisticated first aid station to a trauma triage center.”

Powers does not run marathons. She gets her exercise from ballet.

But she was drawn to the sport several years ago after the death of her husband.

“I was floundering,” she said.

A friend suggested she volunteer to help in the medical tent at the annual Marine Corps Marathon in Washington, D.C.

At the time, she had two sons in the corps, and they encouraged her to go.

The experience led to helping at more than a dozen marathons in recent years, including the Cowtown. She helps treat various marathon-related maladies, from cuts and scrapes to dehydration.

Powers said she enjoys visiting Fort Worth, where her daughter, Bridget Karr, is a speech pathologist. Working at the marathon is her way of giving back to Fort Worth in gratitude for welcoming her daughter.

But marathon runners, she said, are “a special breed.”

Powers said she was inspired by how they continue to enter races in droves, refusing to let the Boston bombings scare them into not achieving their personal bests.

“They’re very motivated and disciplined, and it’s an honor to be around them,” Powers said. “My hope is that, when they leave our tent, somehow, I will have helped them run another race.”

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