ICU runners inspired by patients

Raising funds for Hamilton’s St. Joseph’s Healthcare is one of the goals for runners of Sunday’s Around the Bay Road Race. And a group from the hospitals intensive care unit will be among them. Their inspiration will be the patients they see everyday.

It houses the sickest of the sick. An intensive care unit for many patients — it’s the world of life support. And all who spend time here can expect significant physical change.
Michelle Kho is with St. Joseph’s Healthcare: “If you and I are on bed rest then we’re at risk of losing muscle strength. And what we’ve recently learned is that even if patients in the ICU are on bed rest for a week, their muscles are beginning to shrink.”

The damage that causes can be seen in a patient up to 5-years after being discharged from hospital.

“So we think it’s really important that we start to do rehab while patients are in the ICU even if they’re on life support.”

For certain patients at Hamilton’s St. Joseph’s Healthcare, the therapy of choice is a motorized bike that rolls right up to the bed. Funded by the hospital foundation, St. Joe’s ICU is the only one in Canada to have the device.

“The bike can either move the patient’s legs or the patient can move the bike. So we have this whole spectrum of being able to provide passive exercise or active exercise.”

The patient for our purposes, is actually a physio therapy student. But real patients have been logging real distance on this bike since it arrived in the ICU a year ago.

“We recently had a patient who was able to cycle almost 6.9 K while on life support. And it’s inspiring all of us and surprising all of us because it’s telling us that we’re perhaps underestimating what out patients can do.”

The physio specialists as well as ICU staff have been floored by the cycling results.

“Just as of yesterday we’ve learned our patients have cycled 200k in totality in the ICU — and that’s pretty humbling because that’s more than 6 times around the bay.”

To honour those patients, the ICU pulled together a 32 member running team — and will take that distance to the pavement Sunday.

“We’ve been inspired by our patients and team ICU wants to raise funds for St. Joe’s Foundation and try to meet or exceed what our patients have done.”

Team ICU is hoping to raise $5,000 for St. Joe’s Foundation. You can still make a donation online.


  1. Very inspiring story! So wonderful that patients can still maintain movement, even while in the ICU unit!! Very encouraging news for everyone!!

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