Dr. Lorina Jenks is using her love of running to give back to the community.
Set to participate in her sixth marathon—the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon—this Sunday, she also is running to kick-start a campaign to raise funds to purchase a much-needed piece of equipment for infants at La Verendrye Hospital known as a BiliSoft LED Phototherapy System, or biliblanket.
“A lot of people run in honour of a charity or a person,” Dr. Jenks explained, noting she wanted to run for a cause this time around but had a difficult time deciding with the multitude of charities out there.
For instance, Sunday’s run in Toronto lists three featured charities for the event, one national charity partner, and more than 160 other official charities.
“I was trying to decide and my friend, Karla Rogozinski, who is one of the nurses here, said why don’t you run for the biliblanket?” Dr. Jenks recalled.
“We need a biliblanket,” she stressed. “We had one and it died and it couldn’t be fixed, so we have to get a new one.”
Dr. Jenks said the biliblanket provides phototherapy for babies who are jaundiced, noting they usually use the lights in the incubator.
“[But] this provides lights from two directions so it increases the amount of bilirubin [yellow breakdown product of normal heme catabolism] that gets metabolized,” she noted.
“How the light works is it changes the bilirubin that the baby has in it into a kind that can be excreted by the kidneys,” she explained.
“The reason babies get jaundice, particularly preemie babies, is because their livers aren’t up to full speed at birth, so they have trouble dealing with the bilirubin,” Dr. Jenks added.
“They have a lot of break down of red blood cells so they have more bilirubin than what we deal with.”
Dr. Jenks said they use phototherapy fairly often, estimating at least several babies a year require it.
“The biliblanket, they lie on it and if they come out for feeding, the blanket goes behind [it] and they can be wrapped up in it still providing phototherapy while they are not under the lights,” she explained.
“So they get more contact with mom, there’s more continuous time in phototherapy . . . so they get better fast and go home faster,” she reasoned, noting some hospitals even will send the infant home with the biliblanket.
“We haven’t really gotten into that,” she admitted.
“But, for example, if they wanted to go home on Thanksgiving weekend, and that was the only reason they were in the hospital, we might say you can go for a few hours in the biliblanket.”
And while severe jaundice is quite rare, Dr. Jenks said there have been a few times where they needed to transfer jaundiced babies to Winnipeg for an exchange transfusion, which they have to do if the phototherapy isn’t working.
“They’ve used the biliblanket to help them get treatment while they are being transferred,” she noted.
The cost for the BiliSoft LED Phototherapy System runs about $8,300, but the hospital is looking at a unit that includes a light timer and a light metre, which would cost a couple of thousand dollars more.
“So probably closer to $11,000 range,” noted Samantha Manty, director of Riverside Foundation for Health Care.
Dr. Jenks said they will be collecting funds through the Foundation, which will handle any donations.
“We want to get the campaign out there,” she remarked.
So while Dr. Jenks isn’t expecting to raise the total amount for the biliblanket before the run this weekend, she’s using it to kick off the campaign and will continue to run for the cause in future races.
“Basically for a marathon you train, most training programs are 16- or 18-week training programs, depends on where you start,” said Dr. Jenks, noting that training for a marathon is different than training for a 5K or 10K run.
“The one I used this time was a 16-week [program] but they expect you to already run 13 miles at your long run before you start the 16 weeks,” she added.
Dr. Jenks usually runs 20-22 miles to prepare.
“Generally, you don’t run the full 26 miles until the actual race day,” she explained. “You just gradually increase.
“In the last six weeks, I’ve run five 20-mile runs, a couple 18-mile runs, and then you do two other runs a week at least,” she noted.
The program also has her doing other intense cardio, such as cycling or swimming.
Dr. Jenks said her main goal is to finish the race.
“As you get older, your time goes down, your expectation goes down, so even just coming close to what you did last time,” she remarked.
While conceding she could have ran in honour of a variety of causes, Dr. Jenks wanted to raise money for something closer to home.
“It’s something we need,” she reiterated.
“The Foundation is so thankful to have Dr. Jenks doing this,” enthused Manty.
“And maybe starting this as something where staff members of Riverside will see this, and hopefully be encouraged to do the same type of thing and give back to hospital to support health care close to home,” she reasoned.
Anyone who would like to donate with a cheque can make it out to the Riverside Foundation for Health Care and write “biliblanket” in the memo section.
“Otherwise, if they are giving any other types of donations, they can just send a little note along with it saying where they want it to go and we’ll make sure it is earmarked to go toward that project,” Manty said.
Donations can be mail to Riverside Foundation, 110 Victoria Ave., Fort Frances, Ont., P9A 2B7.
Anyone with questions can contact Manty at 274-4803 or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org