A health walk that included a focus on postpartum depression was held Sunday at Jones Beach. NewsdayTV's Steve Langford reports. Credit: Newsday/James Carbone; file footage

With her young daughter in her arms, a smiling Megan Rasiak strolled around Jones Beach on Sunday morning to raise money for healthy mothers and infants — issues that hit close to home for the Franklin Square resident.

Nearly two years ago, Rasiak’s health as a new mother was precarious after her heart rate dropped while she was in labor, and she underwent an unplanned C-section, Northwell Health officials said. Four days after giving birth to her daughter, Stella, Rasiak, 25, had shortness of breath and “this overwhelming sense of anxiety that something was wrong.”

She went to North Shore University Hospital in Manhasset and was diagnosed with blood clots in her lungs, Northwell Health said. She also had anxiety.

But running also became part of her recovery — a solace that helped her focus on breathing and being in the moment. On Sunday, she was joined by thousands of people who took part in the Northwell Health Walk to help Cohen Children’s Medical Center and the Katz Institute for Women’s Health. Northwell said 3,000 people had signed up to participate in the walk.

 The funds raised will go toward mental health care for children and women, and research on improving women’s health, Northwell said.

From 2016 to 2020, the number of people between 3 and 17 who were diagnosed with anxiety grew by roughly 30%, according to a report from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. And in 2021, more than 1,200 women in the United States died of maternal causes, up from about 755 in 2019, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said.

Miguel Roxas, a Babylon resident who was at the walk, said the struggles that women go through in pregnancy are a “major, major ordeal that is close to the heart.”

The walk was held simultaneously in Riverhead and Port Jefferson on Long Island. It also was held on Staten Island and in Yorktown Heights in the Hudson Valley, Northwell said. More than $7 million has been raised by the walk since its start in 2010.

Despite Northwell Health having an annual budget of $13 billion, mental health for youth is often not funded adequately and it also loses money on research, said Brian Lally, chief development officer for Northwell Health.

“We do it for [a] mission, but we need the community to help us in that,” Lally said.

Reflecting on her birthing experience, Rasiak said she was glad that doctors didn’t dismiss her symptoms.

“But they heard my concerns, and they understood, and they didn't brush me off as a new mom, and I was able to get the care I needed,” she said.

Things are better now, she said. She is now a nurse in pediatrics at Lenox Hill Hospital in Manhattan. And by participating in the health walk, as well as running on her own, she is finding healing.

“It's getting my strength back and trying not to be scared of all the scary things that happened to me and getting over that and enjoying my time with my daughter,” she said.

With Steve Langford

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