Editor’s Note: Remarkable Women is part of a nationwide Nexstar Media initiative to honor the influence that women have had on public policy, social progress and the quality of life. This is the second of 4 weekly stories.
PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Inside Doernbecher Children’s Hospital, there are people doing whatever it takes to make patients and their loved ones feel at ease. For some it’s their job. For Heidi Daniel, it’s what she was meant to do.
For nearly two decades, Heidi Daniel was at the 10 South Unit, a member of the pediatric, hematology and oncology team giving care and comfort in a role where being strong and selfless is key.
“Some of those kids would be there for months at a time,” Daniel told KOIN 6 News. “So you developed quite a bond.”
One of those bonds sparked her to expand on a patient’s idea to get moving within the hospital.
“He was bored, I think. And he was an athletic boy,” she said.
With help from the nurses, they calculated 24 laps around the oncology floor equaled one mile with a goal in mind: to complete a marathon.
“He did it, but most of the other kids didn’t seem to be too interested because it’s a lot.”
So Heidi took the marathon a step further.
“I was just thinking, how can we make this a little more exciting and what reward what would be good incentive? And so, came up with the idea of giving a pair of Nike shoes as a reward,” she said.
Initially someone donated the shoes. Then last year Nike got involved.
Finishing the marathon inside the hospital is big. But just trying to move toward the goal itself can make all the difference for a child.
“The thing is, is they’re in their rooms. They’re stuck with this terrible diagnosis. You got people coming into your room, it feels like every 15 minutes,” she said. “And you just want to get in there, pull the blanket over your head and say, ‘Leave me alone.'”
But now the kids have a fun reason to get up and out.
“There were all these positives that were coming out of it,” she said.
Jim Rabe has known Heidi Daniel and her husband for more than a decade. He nominated her to be a Remarkable Woman.
“When she told me, we discussed the program. It reminded me of Joseph Pilates during (the first) World War. He saw patients in bed and created a system to exercise in bed and he saw results for the patients,” Rabe told KOIN 6 News. “It was just inspirational to me. It’s like, wow, this is great. It is great. That’s why I touched base with you guys.”
Nominating Heidi to be a Remarkable Woman is “just an opportunity to say thank you to her,” he said.
“It was my passion project,” Heid said. But she had to step away from her passion project in August 2021.
“They called me at work at, like, 6 o’clock in the evening and said, ‘You have cancer,” she said. “I left. Then I never went back.”
She’s fighting gastric cancer. “It’s spread,” she said, struggling with the words. “We’re just — the treatment is just kind of buying time, as much time as we can with it.”
Those who are fortunate enough to know Heidi know that moments with her are warm, comforting, calming. That’s why people want to honor her.
Her efforts to create something to make child patients have a tangible goal to reach for is now known as Heidi’s Doernbecher Marathon.
In a personalized wooden shoe box that Nike made for her, inscribed with “Heidi’s Doernbecher Marathon,” were a pair of shoes for her.
“Co-workers signed my shoes,” she said. “I have my own pair of Nike shoes.”
She and her colleagues are working to get the marathon put in place in other children’s hospitals. And she helped get a celebratory bell in her unit for a child to ring when they finish chemotherapy.
It’s a lot of love and attention for a woman who is not used to receiving it — but deserves it.
“I was there 19 years. That was my whole career was on that floor. So, loved my job. Loved my co-workers. Loved the patients,” she said. “It’s a calling because it’s a feeling for me as much as hopefully it is for them.”
Remarkable Women is part of a nationwide Nexstar Media initiative to honor the influence that women have had on public policy, social progress and the quality of life.
Throughout Women’s History Month, KOIN will highlight four local women who inspire, lead and forge the way for other women. It’s not just about one day or one month — it’s about what they do, day-in and day-out.
One woman will be named Oregon’s Woman of the Year and win a $1,000 donation to her charity of choice! From the more than 100 local winners, one woman will be selected and named Nexstar Media Group’s Woman of the Year