Professor, son walking across Kansas to raise stroke awareness - KCTV5

Professor, son walking across Kansas to raise stroke awareness

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Sandra and Michael Billinger Sandra and Michael Billinger
LAWRENCE, KS (KCTV) -

A Kansas City area professor and her son are walking 540 miles across Kansas in an effort to help lead to a better life for stroke patients.

Sandra Billinger and son Michael have logged 30,000 steps or about 25 miles a day for nearly a month. Sandra Billinger is assistant professor, physical therapist and researcher at the University of Kansas Medical Center.

Mother and son began their walk near Coolidge and headed east. They are nearing the finish. Their pace has been a steady three miles an hour for up to 12 hours a day.

The goal is to raise $50,000 for stroke research as well as critically needed awareness. The money will be used to study the benefits of exercise after strokes.

"We would like to implement a very novel program where we get people after a stroke up and out of bed early and try to walk them," Sandra Billinger said.

Strokes affect about 750,000 people annually and is the leading cause of disability.

Sandra Billinger said she can walk 11 to 15 hours a day, but such a pace is really difficult.

She said she feels fine from the ankles up but her feet really ache.

"I think carrying the pack and having the weight on there is really challenging," she said about her survival pack.

Her pack weighs up to 35 pounds. It contains medical supplies, food, water, sleeping bag and a tent. Plus insoles for her beat up and blistered feet.

Sandra and Michael Billinger have seen 80 percent humidity and 90-degree heat. They've pushed through 30 mph head winds and experienced thunderstorms, rain and chill. Friends have also opened their doors to them and they have checked into hotels when necessary due to weather or need for a shower.

While she's weary, she knows how tough it is for stroke survivors to undertake tasks many of us take for granted such as getting dressed or walking. And younger Americans are increasingly suffering from strokes.

"If you think about stroke being the No. 1 cause of disability, think about somebody who is 30 or 45 and still in the workforce, and now has to live with that disability," she said. "We really want to look at reducing that disability for individuals."

The twosome's trek will end Friday afternoon at 39th Avenue and State Line Road at the KU Medical Center campus. So far she's raised $20,000.

Click here to read more and make a donation.

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