Heart walk draws thousands to WSU

Kendra Maikori couldn't let her tiny son, Immanuel, cry for more than a minute — or else.

Immanuel was born with a heart defect that reduced oxygen flow to the body. It was imperative that she and her husband, Ishaku, do whatever it took to keep him calm.

"It was really hard," she said.

That created such a deep respect for heart health that they marched in Saturday's American Heart Association 13th annual Start Heart Walk to raise money for research. The walk was held at Wichita State University.

The goal for the walk was $340,000. Spokesman Stephen Hall said about 3,000 people turned out, which is more than last year.

Thousands of men, women and children, mostly in T-shirts representing their employers, milled on the infield of Cessna Stadium at 8:30 a.m. Minutes later, they gathered on the track, then walked en masse out of the stadium and around the university. Some walked a mile and others a little more than three miles.

Brandy Hardin, a nurse at Wesley Medical Center, said it only seemed right to walk. "The things I always tell my patients to do with their health, I thought it might be good for me to do," she said.

Lisa Brightup of Wichita said her grandfather had had a heart attack and her father a stroke. "I want not to follow in that family tradition," she said.

KWCH Channel 12 meteorologist Mark Larson, who served as emcee, said raising awareness of heart disease has become a mission since he suffered a heart attack at age 42. He was aware that heart problems ran in his family, but he thought he was doing enough.

"I had run three marathons. I thought I was doing everything right," he said.

Now, he wants to become the "poster child" for people of any age becoming more aware of their heart's condition and doing something about it.

Immanuel is better these days. After surgery, the now-23-month-old was riding in a stroller pushed by his father as his mother, and brothers Isaiah and Isaac walked beside him.

"Now we can treat him much more like a normal child," she said.

Kendra quit her job to take care of Immanuel full time during those hard months. Now that he is healthy, she has decided to go back to school to become a nurse.