This is the first article in a weekly series in Brigham Bulletin profiling runners participating in the 2019 Boston Marathon with the Stepping Strong Marathon Team on Monday, April 15.
As a medical assistant in the Division of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery outpatient clinic, Sameera Mathan is continually amazed by the innovative therapies being pioneered by Brigham experts to help trauma patients heal faster and live fuller lives.
She has been equally moved by how unexpected and life-changing a traumatic injury can be and the long, often difficult path to healing patients undertake with resilience and grace.
“A lot of them have been through something immense, yet they remain optimistic and are willing to work so hard to move forward with their lives,” said Mathan, who joined the Brigham last year. “It’s very inspiring to witness.”
Wanting to do more to advance innovation in trauma research and care at the Brigham and beyond, Mathan was overjoyed last fall to learn she had been selected for the hospital’s 2019 Stepping Strong Marathon Team.
Comprising 143 runners, the team raises funds to support The Gillian Reny Stepping Strong Center for Trauma Innovation, which brings together multidisciplinary experts to transform trauma research, care and outcomes.
‘Trauma Has No Demographic’
Having the opportunity to work in the clinic alongside several Stepping Strong innovators — including E.J. Caterson, MD, PhD, Bodhan Pomahac, MD, and Indranil Sinha, MD — and learn more about their groundbreaking work has been deeply rewarding, Mathan said.
Caterson, medical director of Craniofacial Surgery, is collaborating with fellow Stepping Strong innovator Eric Goralnick, MD, MS, on a series of emergency preparedness initiatives, including a program to train bystanders on how to apply tourniquets and stop uncontrolled bleeding in the immediate wake of an attack or accident. Pomahac, director of Plastic Surgery Transplantation, has developed a portable machine that can keep detached arms and legs alive up to three times longer than what is currently possible after a traumatic amputation. Sinha, a leader in skeleton-muscle generation, has teamed up with Stepping Strong innovator Su-Ryon Shin, PhD, to regrow lost or damaged muscle using 3-D bioprinting.
“It is a privilege to see how far they are willing to go to provide even greater care to their patients,” Mathan said. “I really appreciate having the opportunity to help in any way I can, and it means a lot to me to be part of the marathon team and see its impact in the clinic firsthand.”
Mathan, who is pursuing a nursing degree and hopes to become a Brigham nurse, says her experiences have reinforced how widely and urgently novel trauma therapies are needed.
“Trauma has no demographic — it can happen to anyone — and it’s one of the leading causes of death globally,” she said. “While there are a lot of other worthy causes out there, I feel this is one that doesn’t get the attention it deserves.”
‘Our Little Family’
As race day approaches, Mathan said that while she is nervous about completing her first Boston Marathon, she is looking forward to enjoying the day alongside her Stepping Strong teammates.
“I remember sitting down at the very first meeting in October and thinking I didn’t know a single person, and now I have this new group of friends,” she said. “As much as I’m excited to run myself, I’m more excited to celebrate our little family finishing the marathon together.”
This will be Mathan’s second marathon, having completed one in Providence last year, but it will be her first as part of an organized team. “I struggled a lot training for Providence because I trained on my own, and my experience this time around has been so different,” she said.
“With Stepping Strong, there’s such a support system and this whole family really comes behind you to get you through training and give you all the tools you need to be prepared. If you’re willing to embrace the full experience when you do it, you can’t go wrong.”
About Stepping Strong
Established five years ago, The Gillian Reny Stepping Strong Center for Trauma Innovation has evolved from one family’s bold response to a personal tragedy to a thriving, multi-institutional, multidisciplinary hub that is transforming trauma research and care for civilians and military heroes who endure traumatic injuries and events. You can advance this critical work by supporting the Stepping Strong Marathon Team. Click here to meet members of the team or make a gift. Learn more about the center at BWHSteppingStrong.org.