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Jeff Backus, Survivor-Advocate

My name is Jeff Backus. When I was 40, I had my first heart attack. At the time I weighed 450 pounds. Three years later, I had to have five stents. Through surgery, diet and exercise, I lost 150 lbs. In September 2012, a stent collapsed and I had another heart attack.

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There was a weight loss contest at work, and through more diet and exercise I was able to get my weight to 250 and decided to start training to run my first 5K.  In March of 2014, I had a stress test, and everything looked good.  On Sunday, April 27, 2014, I left the house to run in Cherokee Park.  I don’t remember anything else until I woke up in Baptist Hospital, but from other people I know the story.

While running up Dog Hill on the Cherokee Loop I went into cardiac arrest.  Fortunately, Elise Hawkins, an ER nurse from Norton Audubon, was training for the Ironman and was running on the loop.  She did CPR and another bystander called 911 and my wife.  Because of traffic issues, it took 20 minutes for the EMTs to arrive and Elise gave me CPR the whole time.  The EMTs were able to shock my heart back to a normal rhythm and transported me to Baptist.  There it was determined that I needed a double bypass.  I was frustrated and depressed, but I was determined that it wasn’t going to get me down.

After going through rehab, I got the ok to begin running again.  It was just like starting over, but in October 2014, I ran that first 5K with Elise.  I will admit I walked almost as much as I ran but I finished.  I continued to train and on April 28, 2015, one year and one day after my cardiac arrest I completed the Kentucky Derby Festival Mini Marathon.  I wanted to do something with my running to inspire and educate other people, so I had a shirt made that says “LEARN CPR IT SAVED MY LIFE” on the front and back.  People always ask me about it and it gives me a chance to share my story and encourage them to learn hands only CPR.

My name is Jeff Backus and My Family and Good Samaritan, Elise Hawkins, are my why.

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