The morning of September 29, 2012, started like all my previous 16,911 days as I woke up before my alarm, jumped out of bed and was soon ready to take on the challenges of the day. My first challenge that day was completing my eighth marathon in Akron, Ohio. I was prepared to run the marathon after completing the same extensive marathon training I did each year since 2007.
My friends and I lined up at the starting line of the Akron Marathon and put together our plan to meet at the end of the race. Running a marathon was nothing new to anyone in the group so we all knew what to expect when the race started, or so we thought. On our marathon training runs, we usually ran together about 5-10 miles before we separated based on our different running paces. As we approached the first mile of the race it was a little unusual that my friends began to pull ahead but that was just the beginning of what would be a very different run.
I was approaching mile two on a very crowded street and next thing I remember I was on a hospital bed. What is going on? What happened? Why am I here? Those were just some of the questions that ran through my head. A nurse entered my room and said, “Today is the luckiest day of your life.” I was very confused not knowing what happened. How am I lucky to be in a hospital bed and obviously injured? I was in pain with cuts on my face, hand, arm, knee, and in a neck brace unable to move. The nurse figured out I had no idea what happened and added, “Once you learn your story, you will understand how today is the luckiest day of your life. “
While running my eighth marathon at mile 2, I went into sudden cardiac arrest (SCA). Lucky for me, I happened to be running in a group with quite a few nurses. As soon as I fell down, two of those nurses who were running closest to me began CPR after finding no pulse. They continued performing life-saving CPR for over 10 minutes until paramedics arrived and shocked me back to life with a defibrillator. As I heard my story, I realized the hospital nurse was right—“today was the luckiest day of my life.”
There was no history of heart disease or heart related problems in my family. I passed yearly physicals with great lab results. My cardiac arrest took everyone off guard. I ran over 1,000 miles a year and thought I was taking good care of myself, so a cardiac arrest was not supposed to happen. While in the hospital, test after test indicated nothing wrong with my heart. Doctors found no explanation for my sudden cardiac arrest and they told me that my heart was good. Despite the “healthy” heart, it was decided the Subcutaneous Implantable Cardioverter Defibrillator (S-ICD) was needed since my heart obviously went into a strange electrical rhythm resulting in SCA. I was soon the recipient of a S-ICD which would shock me back if I ever had a repeat SCA.
Today I am good friends with the nurses who saved me, continue running races (after doctor approval), joined heart awareness athletic groups (Cardiac Athletes and Ironheart Racing) and work with the American Heart Association to promote CPR. The AHA was instrumental in organizing a CPR training event in my hometown where 150 citizens were trained in Hands-Only CPR. With the help of the AHA more people will know CPR, which means more cardiac arrest survivors to tell stories like mine.