Introducing WebMD’s 2008 Health Heroes
Four ordinary Americans who are doing extraordinary things for the health of others.
Our third annual WebMD Health Heroes tribute spotlights four amazing Americans who took on daunting challenges with perseverance, guts, and a vision for turning hardship into victory for others.
A Daughter Advocates for Prostate Cancer
Last May, when Winter Vinecki, 9, learned her father was diagnosed with a rare, aggressive form of prostate cancer, she knew what she would do. An active child growing up in Gaylord, Mich., she has a passion for triathlons -- she swims, bikes, and runs, and competed in her first one at age 5. Struck by how many kids in her school were overweight and out of shape, she had thought of putting together a team of like-minded friends and family (including her three brothers and mom) to race and raise money for kids' health. "But then my dad got sick," Winter says. "I decided the team should help find a cure for this cancer that was hurting my dad."
And so Team Winter was born. In just a few months, she has gathered runners and triathletes from all over the United States to join the team, which has raised more than $100,000 to benefit Athletes for a Cure and the Prostate Cancer Foundation. Her calendar is packed with upcoming events, including a 10 mile race on Dec. 6 for her 10th birthday. "I want to tell everyone about this disease," she says. "I think if we can raise enough money there can be a cure." And to meet that goal? "I just focus on crossing the finish line and getting there."
A Mother Helps Others with Postpartum Mental Illness
Katherine Stone, 39, skipped the chapter about postpartum illnesses in What to Expect When You're Expecting, but in hindsight, she wishes she hadn't. "Had I been more educated, I might have spent the first year of my son's life in a different place." Instead, she found herself battling postpartum obsessive-compulsive disorder, one of a wide spectrum of illnesses that can occur around delivery and after giving birth. By the time of her son's first birthday in September 2002, Stone had been on medication and in therapy and had finally turned the corner.
But the experience kept haunting her. "It bothered me how isolated and alone I felt. There's no reason, in this day and age, for me not to know where to turn, not to know how common this is." So in 2004, the former Coca-Cola executive based in Fayetteville, Ga., put her marketing savvy to work and launched a blog called Postpartum Progress (find it at postpartumprogress.typepad.com) to give women a place to find comfort and answers. Now it's the most widely read blog on perinatal mood and anxiety disorders in the United States, with more than 3,000 readers weekly. It covers the latest research, support groups and treatment programs, personal stories, and the Surviving &amp; Thriving Mothers Photo Album. "I really wanted to create something that refutes the myths, combats the fears, and reduces the stigma," says Stone, now a mother of two.