Bridge Run Symbolizes Participant's Goal To Defy The Odds

Kate Hibbeler, team leader, Customer Care Service, Southeast Georgia Health SystemFebruary 5, 2020 – Life has many challenges, but participating in the Southeast Georgia Health System Foundation Bridge Run seemed like a challenge way out of reach for Brunswick native, Kate Hibbeler. However, whenever Hibbeler contemplated her ability to walk without help, something her mother often said kept coming to mind – “even if you think you can’t do something, you can always try.” This little line of encouragement from childhood made Hibbeler determined to defy the odds.

In October 2010, Hibbeler was taking a joy ride on her motorcycle when she was suddenly struck by another vehicle. While lucky to be alive, the accident left her with a broken tibia and fibula, a crushed calcaneus and a shattered femur. Hibbeler knew she would be in a wheelchair for a while, but after enduring surgery and over a month of rehabilitation, she was given the devastating news that she may not ever be able to walk again without an assisted device.

“It was very hard to accept,” she says. “I’m very independent. I like to be able to get up and go and not ever be held back. And that’s just what I did. I continued to work full-time. I never thought of myself as disabled, just inconvenienced.”

After six years of using a scooter and a walker to get around, Hibbeler decided it was time to find a way to exercise. She discovered the recumbent stepper at the Health System’s Cardiopulmonary Rehabilitation Gym which allowed her to sit while exercising her arms and legs. After three months of dedicated workouts, Hibbeler no longer needed to use a walker for short distances within the confines of her home or office, but still relied on her scooter for long distances.

Although Hibbeler had already come a long way, she knew she wanted more independence. She had always struggled with her weight due to a pituitary tumor. Even after losing 50 pounds post-surgery for the tumor, she knew she had to get more of the weight off of her legs or she would likely need to use a scooter forever. That was when a physician recommended bariatric surgery, also known as weight loss surgery. Hibbeler underwent surgery in May 2019 and lost 116 pounds within eight months. “I had to change my lifestyle in addition to the surgery, but I’m committed to it whole-heartedly and the progress I’ve made has motivated me to attain more goals.”

Only five months after her bariatric surgery, Hibbeler no longer needed her scooter. “I accidentally left my scooter in my office one day and just continued to walk to my car. That was the first time I walked more than 50 feet without an assisted device in nine years! The next day, I decided I was going to start training to walk the 2020 Bridge Run.”

To accomplish her goal, Hibbeler began training with Brian LaBudde, RCEP, exercise physiologist at the Health System’s Cardiopulmonary Rehabilitation Gym. She also started walking the Sidney Lanier Bridge two to three times a week with her sons. “I started out walking only to the first lamp post, then to the second, then to the third and so on and so on. I can now make it all the way up to the 20th lamp post. I keep progressing, but I am taking it slow,” states Hibbeler. “You don’t have to be an athlete, but it’s important to do what you can to improve your health. This year, I set an obtainable goal--to walk the Bridge Run halfway. And when I get to the top of the bridge, the band will be playing me a special song, and I will dance!”

Benefitting the Health System cancer and cardiac care programs, the 2020 Bridge Run takes place on Saturday, Feb. 15. Unique among running events, the Bridge Run takes place entirely on the 7,780-foot long Sidney Lanier Bridge in Brunswick, Ga. Certified by the U.S. Track and Field Association as “the toughest 5K in Georgia,” the course is sufficiently difficult to entice professionals and experienced amateurs and manageable enough for walkers of all ages to enjoy. This year’s event includes a new challenge. In addition to the runners and walkers 5K, and the First Responders Challenge, experienced runners can attempt the intense 10K Double Pump. Those participants will cross bridge a total of four times. The event also includes a Pasta Party and Runners Expo at the foot of the bridge on Friday, Feb. 14, 5-8 p.m. Because of the steep grade on the bridge, pets, baby strollers, running strollers, roller blades or anything with wheels are NOT permitted during the Bridge Run.

Event registration is available online at the-bridge-run.org or active.com or by calling 800-537-5142, extension 2786. Runner registration ends midnight, Tuesday, Feb. 11. There is no day-of-event runner registration; however, walkers may register on event day.

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