Healthier Together

Fall 2017 issue
In the long run

In the long run


Like most young families, the Harmses of Manassas, Virginia, are always on the go, so they wanted a healthcare partner that could keep them healthy and enjoying their active lifestyle. But when they chose Novant Health UVA Health System for their family’s care, they had no idea just how deep — and how important — that partnership would turn out to be.

Michael and Hope both teach, so they appreciate the convenience of all five family members being able to go to Novant Health UVA Health System Bull Run Family Medicine. When their two biological children — Oliver (2½) and Ethan (6 months) — were born, the couple chose Novant Health UVA Health System Haymarket Medical Center and physicians from Novant Health UVA Health System Lake Manassas OB/GYN.

Michael and Hope rave about the top-quality care they receive so close to home. And their adopted son, Donald, 20, who has cerebral palsy (CP), also is seen locally at the Bull Run office. But he also reaps the benefits of having access, through the Novant Health and UVA partnership, to University of Virginia Health System, the nearby academic medical center in Charlottesville.

Staying healthy is especially important with the big goals Michael and Donald have in mind. Father and son participate in numerous long-distance running events, including the Novant Health UVA Health System Prince William half-marathon and the Novant Health UVA Health System Prince William Medical Center Turkey Trot 5k, with Michael pushing Donald in a customized racing wheelchair. But it was a long journey that brought Michael and Donald to competitive running — a story that is both unique and inspiring.

Reaching out to help others

Back in 2010, Michael, a special education teacher at Manassas Park Middle School, and Hope, an art teacher at Manassas Park High School, traveled to a remote area of Jamaica to volunteer at Westhaven Children’s Home, an orphanage that focuses on children with special needs.

During the trip, the Harmses and their friends decided to start an on-site school at Westhaven tailored to the needs of the children. Michael and Hope felt an instant connection to Donald, who was a 13-year-old boy known for his light-up-theroom smile. Donald had lived at Westhaven since age 5.

Leaving Jamaica and Donald was heart-wrenching. Michael and Hope knew what they wanted to do.

Back in the U.S., Michael and Hope explored how they could legally adopt Donald. “It was a choice,” Michael said, “but to us, it never really felt like one. We both loved him and wanted him to be part of our family.” The adoption took 2½ years, including two denials by U.S. immigration, but in 2013, Michael and Hope officially brought Donald home as his parents.

Caring for a growing family

Since starting their family with Donald’s adoption, Michael and Hope feel fortunate to have convenient, high-quality medical care at Novant Health UVA Health System.

When Hope was pregnant, she knew she wanted to deliver close to home using her doctors at Lake Manassas OB/GYN, so she chose Haymarket Medical Center. “It was such an amazing experience,” Hope said. “Renee Hammond was our labor and delivery nurse with Oliver, and our prayers were answered when she was our nurse again for Ethan’s birth two years later.”

For their ongoing healthcare needs, all five members of the Harms family go to Joseph Chambers, MD, at Bull Run Family Medicine. “We also see Dr. Chambers around town,” said Michael. “He’s a part of our community, which is so important.”

Dr. Chambers agreed: “At Bull Run Family Medicine, it’s our mission to care for people of all ages living in this area, and we especially enjoy being able to get to know entire families like the Harmses.” And the partnership between the academic medical center at UVA and Novant Health has been especially important for Donald’s unique care needs, including specialized physical and occupational therapy, speech pathology and several surgeries to ease CP-related orthopedic discomfort.

Going the distance together

Healthy and motivated, this father-son duo continues to take the running world by storm. When they race, Michael and Donald raise money for Ainsley’s Angels of America, an organization that helps people with special needs participate in endurance events. “We now want to give back so that others can enjoy the fun, the challenge and the bonding that Donald and I experience when we run together,” Michael explained.

With two Marine Corps marathons under their belts, Michael and Donald are striving to qualify for the 2019 Boston Marathon. With the support of a loving family, their tight-knit Manassas community and their healthcare teams at Novant Health UVA Health System, they are on a winning track.