For the past five years, Weber State University’s respiratory therapy program has hosted a Ventilator 5K, in which students decorate ventilators and push them for five kilometers. People in the community can also pay $15 to run the race as well, and all the money raised goes to the American Respiratory Care Foundation.
The 5K was originally started by the ARCF. People all over the nation are participating in these 5Ks in order to win the American Medical Resource Foundation competition. The prize is a free ventilator, or life support machine, for the organization that wins. WSU has won three out of the four years it has been a part of the competition.
The organizers of the WSU event were Janelle Gardiner and her advanced respiratory therapy students.
“What we were hoping for is to raise some awareness,” Gardiner said. “A lot of people are not aware of what respiratory therapy is and some of the diseases that we treat. We were hoping . . . to get people to say, ‘What is respiratory therapy, and why does it matter?’”
Both the advanced and entry-level students decorated their own ventilators. The advanced students decorated theirs as a burrito with the message “we give you gas” on it.
“Respiratory therapy gives people therapeutic gases like oxygen,” said one of the creators, Adam Taylor. “Burritos also give people gas.”
The entry-level students were going to do more than decorate their ventilator; they were going to bring in a donkey.
“A girl in our class mentioned she has a little miniature donkey,” said Laci Gorder, a participant at this year’s 5K. They were going to have the donkey pull the ventilator which was dressed up as a person. The slogan underneath was “I can save your ass.” The donkey plan fell through and they ended up using a picture of a donkey on their ventilator instead.
While the advanced students said they believed they were going to beat the entry-level students in the race, the entry-level students said they were sure they were going to lose.
“I only run if someone is chasing me,” Gorder said.
The advanced-level students finished running the race at 30 minutes and 33 seconds while the entry-level students finished walking the race at 50 minutes and 55 seconds.
“It was a pain in the butt,” Gorder said, “especially because it rained and [the ventilator] fell over and the brakes kept kicking in every time we hit a bump.”
The winner of the race was Albert Wint, one of the students who helped organize the event. He won with a time of 16 minutes and 41 seconds. Most people there said they expected Wint to be the first one across the finish line.
“He’s a very seasoned runner; he runs to school every day,” Taylor said. Those waiting at the finish line were making bets on how quickly Wint would finish the race.
“It feels great; it’s always good to win,” said Wint, who participated last year. He helped organize the event and helped design the t-shirts each participant received.
“Respiratory therapy is a fun, fulfilling career and this is just one of the things we do to help raise awareness,” said Gardiner.