A Day in the Life with Dr. Julie Nangia: Reflections on the 2013 Avon Walk

Most days, Dr. Julie Nangia serves as assistant professor in the Lester and Sue Smith Breast Center at Baylor College of Medicine.

But recently, she spent a weekend serving as medical director at the Avon Walk for Breast Cancer and talks about it in this “Day in the Life” feature. BCM was the official medical sponsor of the event for the sixth year in a row.

The Avon Walk

Dr. Julie Nangia

Dr. Julie Nangia. Photo Credit: Margi Levin

We often get so involved in the daily grind that we forget why we love doing the things we do.  The Avon Walk reminds me of this. It is a day that brings together more than 1,000 individuals who, in some way, are touched by breast cancer.

There is an electrifying feeling in the air – it makes me proud to be part of this event.

Great memories from the past include seeing a group of teenage girls who missed their prom to walk for one of their mothers, a young man wearing a sign that read “I miss you, Mom” and an elderly woman who fell the first day, had to go to the hospital for x-rays, but came back to walk the next day!

Thirty-nine miles in two days – it’s not easy.

Registration and opening ceremony, 5 a.m.

Bright and early Saturday morning, the walk started out inspiring, as always.

At the opening ceremony, my friend Sandra Bishnoi, and her husband Sanjay told their story on stage – she has metastatic breast cancer and is doing so well. In the past three years, they have raised more than 15,000 dollars for Avon!

After opening ceremony, the participants walked 26 miles Day 1 and we were lucky – it was a nice morning with temperatures in the 50s.

Typically, we see blistered feet, sprains and strains, individuals with heat stroke or dehydration and a spattering of other problems.  Last year there was a seizure, which was scary. This is when the real work starts for us.

Day 1 in the medical tent, 10 a.m.

I made my way to the Wellness Village to set up the tent.  There was plenty of help this year, so we were ready by noon, waiting for participants to arrive. We were just starting to see our first injuries around 3 p.m.

Usually, by this time, the tent is full of dehydrated individuals and heat stroke, but the weather was in our favor this year.  We saw some minor strains and sprains, blistered feet and started IV fluids on a few dehydrated individuals, but there was no heat stroke this year or and only one heat rash.

All was fairly quiet and the medical tent operated smoothly.  The most “excitement” we saw was a participant who came in with chest pain. A few others went to the hospital for X-rays/CTs of injuries sustained from falls. All in all, this was the easiest year yet for medical care!

I was so relieved and so tired. It had been an 18-hour day for me and I was ready for bed.

Day 2 in the medical tent, 5 a.m.

I headed back to the tent bright and early the next morning to prepare for the morning crowd. We had a lot of blisters and strains/sprains as expected. We got the walkers on their way and wrapped up the medical tent in the Wellness Village by 8:30 a.m.

Whew—we had made it through the tough part of the weekend and fared pretty well medically. Thank you to all the medical volunteers and crew!

Closing ceremony and grant presentations, 2:30

We packed up the tents and made our way to closing ceremonies, where we set up at the medical tent near the finish line and waited for the walkers to complete the final 13 miles of the event. It was a perfect spring day.

Sunny, Houston’s gorgeous skyline in the background and tons of people in pink cheering the walkers across the finish line! We saw some more blisters, a few strains/sprains but no dehydration or heat stroke!

And then it was time for the closing ceremony.  This is my favorite part of the walk. The survivors, walkers and crew come in together, and they show a video, which always makes me tear up, about how we’ve all made a difference this weekend.

Then… it was time for grant presentations! Baylor College of Medicine received two grants this year, totaling $350,000.

The grants include a $200,000 safety net grant to Dr. Mothaffar Rimawi to help with the efforts at the Harris Health System and a $150,000 research grant to Dr. Dario Marchetti for his work with circulating tumor cells and brain metastasis.

After everything, I was so tired and so happy! I love being the medical director for the Avon Walk.

For more photos, see the Lester and Sue Smith Breast Center’s Facebook page.

-Dr. Julie Nangia, assistant professor in the Lester and Sue Smith Breast Center at Baylor College Medicine

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