• Nurse goes 'above and beyond' to help local mother, daughter complete race

    By: Nicole Emmett


    ATLANTA - An Atlanta-area mother and daughter completed a monumental race with the help of a kindhearted, familiar face.

    Marjan Holbrook, of Alpharetta, was excited to run the Publix Georgia Marathon 5K with daughter Rebecca, 8, on Sunday, March 22.

    Weather conditions hindered her excitement, as Holbrook has asthma that she said flares up in the rain and cold.

    Additionally, her daughter, who has mitochondrial disease, tends to have seizures in the cold.

    ”If  you can imagine powering a whole house’s worth of electronics, with just one light bulb, that’s kind of what it’s like for Rebecca,” she said of the disease.

    Holbrook’s husband was parking the car to meet them when she said she almost broke down in tears.

    “I was about to call and say ‘Don’t bother, I’m not going to run,’” Holbrook told Channel 2 Action News. “It was getting stressful.”

    Holbrook said she had just told herself that she would not run the race unless a doctor or nurse was on standby for them.

    “It was even better than that,” she laughed. “I had a nurse pushing her.”

    The Holbrooks had met nurse Gary Harris in February, when Rebecca spent several weeks at Children's Healthcare of Atlanta.

    “He was just a fantastic nurse,” Holbrook said.  

    On Sunday, Harris stopped by the Kyle Pease Foundation’s tent, and saw the Hilbrooks. They were part of a group of nearly 100 people, including 22 assisted athletes, preparing for the race.

    “He came over and said hi and I said, ‘Gary, it’s good to see you, but I don’t think we’re going to be running this morning,’” Holbrook said.

    Harris told Holbrook he would be honored if she would let him push Rebecca’s wheelchair, and she could run the race alongside them.

    Harris, who said he has run Publix’s Georgia Half Marathon every year since the race started with his wife, went over to his wife and handed her his half marathon number. 

    Harris said his wife loved the idea, because she knows how much his patients mean to him.

    “Then I went up with Marjan, Rebecca and dad to the starting line and pushed her for the 5K,” Harris told Channel 2 Action News.

    The trio finished first in their division, with a time of 27 minutes.

    Harris said that after hugs, photos and high fives, he ran the half marathon backwards from the finish line, until he found his wife. Then, the two completed that race together, as tradition would have it.

    Holbrook said she has no doubt she would not have been able to complete the race without Harris, since so much of it ended up being uphill.

    “I’m inspired by Gary because he wasn’t supposed to be there,” Holbrook said. “He hadn’t trained, but he just showed up and did it.”

    The CHOA nurse of eight years said he was just as touched by the experience as the Holbrooks were.

    “When I first met Marjan, Rebecca.. she was my patient,” Harris said. “She couldn’t laugh. She couldn’t smile. She couldn’t kick. She couldn’t do any of those things that she did for me that day.”

    While Rebecca cannot speak, her mother said she shows when she is happy and when she is sad.

    “Watching her at that level of happiness, and knowing I helped facilitate that, I can’t explain how that feels,” Harris said.

    He said that to see patients at something like a race is rewarding, because it means they have begun to return to normalcy. To see them complete a race is an even higher level of gratification.

    “I’ve seen at her worst and seen her at her best, and knowing I’ve helped facilitate her being at her best is the best feeling as a nurse,” he said.

    Harris said the Holbrooks are an example of how to respond to having a child who has a life-threatening disease.

    “I love them. They’re wonderful people,” he said. “They’re really a model family of how to respond to having a child with mitochondrial disease.”

    [Click here to read Marjan Holbrook's '5 Life Lessons I’ve Learned From My Daughter’s Rare Disease']

    CHOA posted a photo of the trio from the race on its Facebook page Tuesday. By Wednesday, it  had more than 3,500 likes and nearly 100 comments, many praising “Nurse Gary” for all he does on a daily basis.

    “I can’t tell you, the love that’s coming back to me for what, to me, was a simple 27-minute run, is so heartwarming and immeasurable,” Harris said.

    He said he hopes their story can inspire others to do simple things for those around them whom they may not be able to relate to.

    “All I can say to those people is, if there’s a sick person in your world, reach out to them. Those kids need love. They can feel that. Give them a high-five. Talk to them. Say hi. Tip your hat when you walk by. Do something. Those kids are in there, and they need love just as much as we do, if not more,” he said.

    <div id="fb-root"></div><script>(function(d, s, id) {  var js, fjs = d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0];  if (d.getElementById(id)) return;  js = d.createElement(s); js.id = id;  js.src = "//connect.facebook.net/en_US/sdk.js#xfbml=1&version=v2.3";  fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js, fjs);}(document, 'script', 'facebook-jssdk'));</script><div class="fb-post" data-href="https://www.facebook.com/ChildrensHealthcareofAtlanta/posts/10153155825493186:0" data-width="500"><div class="fb-xfbml-parse-ignore"><blockquote cite="https://www.facebook.com/ChildrensHealthcareofAtlanta/posts/10153155825493186:0"><p>Marjan and her daughter, Rebecca, who has mitochondrial disease signed up to run the Publix 5x with the Kyle Pease...</p>Posted by <a href="https://www.facebook.com/ChildrensHealthcareofAtlanta">Children&#039;s Healthcare of Atlanta</a> on <a href="https://www.facebook.com/ChildrensHealthcareofAtlanta/posts/10153155825493186:0">Tuesday, March 24, 2015</a></blockquote></div></div>

    Next Up: