Hospital surgical technologist inspires co-workers with running for good causes
After a medical diagnosis and mini-stroke, a cardiologist told Henrissa Summers to start walking more. That led to 5ks and eventually ultramarathons and along the way an inspiring story of survival and positivity for others.
On a typical work day you will find Henrissa Summers in the operating room assisting spine and orthopedic surgeons at HCA Florida Sarasota Doctors Hospital as a surgical technologist. After work you’ll find her running, usually five to 10 miles a day through her Sarasota neighborhood. Her journey to runner started in 2014 after being diagnosed with immune thrombocytopenic purpura (ITP), a rare autoimmune disorder that causes low platelet levels. She woke up one morning with numbness and tingling in her arm, signs of a stroke. After barely being able to walk on a treadmill during the cardiac stress test, her cardiologist prescribed 500 steps a day.
Summers started by walking around the operating room at the Philadelphia hospital where she worked at the time. That eventually led to 1,000 steps a day and walking around the hospital neighborhood. A co-worker saw the daily walks and challenged Summers to join a 5K walk to support breast cancer awareness. Other co-workers urged her to continue walking and running with pledges of $5.00 for every mile. So many co-workers donated that Summers says she had to keep going which led to more 5Ks for charity, half marathons, marathons and eventually ultramarathons. She was known as the “girl who runs in scrubs.”
“I couldn’t even walk 500 steps at first, but then I started doing more. I started to feel better and my health improved. Less medications, less headaches and less trips to the doctor. I would run for fundraisers to support friends and family. I hope I can inspire more people to walk and run. If I can do it, they can too,” said Henrissa Summers. Summers also worked with a dietician to improve her diet and her husband, who is an executive chef, supports her with his healthy cooking.
Summers runs to support her health and support local events like the Suncoast Heart Walk for the American Heart Association. She also runs in memory of her daughter who passed away at the age of 28, in 2019 from breast cancer.
Colleagues at HCA Florida Sarasota Doctors Hospital know of Henrissa Summers’ story and are inspired by her positive spirit and determination. “If I miss a day running, I feel off, like I am missing something in my day. When I am running I see flowers and butterflies and it reminds me of my daughter, so I keep going and I want to continue to inspire people to do the same,” adds Summers.