A cardiologist competing in a California marathon saved the lives of two runners using cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) after watching a man collapse in front of him and another at the finish line after completing the race.
Steven Lome had never seen anyone go into cardiac arrest in a road race and never expected to use his professional skills outside of work.
While running the Monterey Bay Half Marthon in California on November 13, Lome was able to save the lives of two men in their 50s and 60s.
He talked about the miraculous feat on Twitter, pointing out the “crazy chance” that both men are in the right place at the right time.
What are the chances of two people going into cardiac arrest in one race? What are the chances that they will both make a full recovery? (Typically, only 5 percent survive a cardiac arrest in hospital),’ Lome wrote.
“I’m honored to work as a cardiologist and to use my education for others, but I never imagined that those skills would be needed outside of work in this way.”
Steven Lome had never seen anyone go into cardiac arrest during a road race and never expected to use his professional skills outside of work
Greg Gonzales, 67, collapsed about 30 feet in front of Lome as Michael Heilemann, 56, of San Anselmo, California collapsed at the finish
Lome said he remembered the moment he saw Greg Gonzales, 67, of Vancouver, Washington, collapse about 30 feet in front of him around the third mile of the race.
He determined that Gonzales had not just passed out or tripped, but had gone into cardiac arrest.
“Began CPR, people called 911. Defibrillator arrived in about 6 minutes and rhythm was ventricular fibrillation (fatal arrhythmia),” he said.
“One shock and normal heart rhythm restored.”
The American Heart Association recommends hand-only CPR, which instructs the person giving chest compressions to push hard and quickly into the center of the patient’s chest.
Push to the beat of the Bee Gees’ song “Stayin’ Alive,” Lome told The Washington Post.
“That’s because that’s the right size,” he said.
Gonzales woke up two to three minutes after being startled by an automated external defibrillator (AED). He said the last thing he remembered about the race was speeding down a slope around the third mile.
But when he regained consciousness, he was in the back of an ambulance.
Lome said the chance of surviving cardiac arrest is only 5 percent outside of a hospital. He noted that it was “crazy odds” that he was at the race
He posted about the heroic incident on Twitter, noting that he felt “honored” to be a cardiologist
“I felt fine, other than terrible chest pain, and they indicated that the chest pain was due to rib fractures as a result of the chest compressions,” Gonzales told the publication.
Lomé continued the race and finished the half marathon in 2 hours, 30 minutes and 32 seconds.
But just as he crossed the finish line, Lome wrote that he saw another runner go down in front of him.
‘All out. No pulse. Started CPR. Within 1-2 minutes, a race volunteer brought an AED and placed the electrodes on his chest.
“The advised shock indicating a fatal arrhythmia is present again. One shock and I start chest compressions again.
“He opens his eyes and says, ‘Why am I down here?’ then puts his Strava on his watch and wants to get up.”
Michael Heilemann, 56, of San Anselmo, California collapsed at the finish line and was taken to hospital after resuscitation.
Both Gonzales and Heilemann are runners with a family history of heart attacks or heart disease.
Gonzales’ father died of a heart attack at age 58 and his brother suffered a heart attack at age 59.
“That’s why I ran and tried to keep my weight down and tried to eat the right foods,” he said.
Heilemann said his father, who died of heart disease three years ago, went into cardiac arrest when he was 56. His uncle and cousin also died of heart disease.
Lomé added that “both had undiagnosed heart disease” and both are not “out of the hospital and fully recovered.”
Both men said they felt healthy on their way into the race, but the fact that both survived can be attributed in part to the swift action of passersby performing CPR and the availability of AEDs.
The incidents received national attention and provide lessons and reminders for runners of all abilities, Lome said after thanking medical volunteers at the site.
“Kudos to the medical volunteers at the race and the Big Sur Marathon Foundation for their efforts to host the event with enough medical volunteers who were well trained and ready to act,” he said.
“Being alert and ready to bring an AED as soon as possible saved two lives. I still can’t believe this happened.
“THIS is why we need to focus America on preventing heart disease, as the first symptom of heart disease in 1 in 3 people is sudden death, as these two individuals nearly succumbed.”
Lomé used the incident as an opportunity to promote good health and exercise and is often seen on social media platforms promoting healthy living
Other posts on Lome’s twitter show the cardiologist trying to reduce the risk of serious conditions, as seen in this post about colon cancer
Lome said eliminating processed foods and focusing on unprocessed plant foods is essential for your health.
“Exercise is only 20 percent of heart health, diet is the most important part,” he added.
But a healthy lifestyle “doesn’t make you immune to your risk factors,” says sports cardiologist Jonathan Kim.
“In general, if you exercise a lot, eat a healthy diet, you’re going to control your cholesterol, you’re going to control your blood pressure,” he said.
‘But there’s nothing you can do to control your genes.
“If you have such a strong family history that you let your doctor know, so if you live past 40, 50, it’s very important that you get proper heart assessments and evaluation by a preventive cardiologist.”
Cardiologists also emphasize the importance of listening to your body and understanding risk factors and potential warning signs.
About a year and a half ago, Gonzales said he felt a “little twinge of pain” on the left and right sides of his chest.
The pain came and went.
“Five seconds here, 20 seconds here, 30 seconds here, maybe a minute now and then,” he said.
“No more than probably five to ten times.”
About eight months ago, Gonzales had a “little inch” of pain in his left bicep.
He overlooked the pain and wrote it off for other things, such as indigestion or pain from lifting weights.
Gonzales said, looking back, he should have gone to the doctor.
Sudden cardiac arrests are uncommon among road race participants according to a 2012 study published in the New England Journal of Medicine.
The incidence is 0.54 per 100,000 participants, with a significantly higher rate during marathons compared to half marathons.
But the majority of those cardiac arrests (71 percent) were fatal.
“A lot of people run marathons and do just fine,” Kim said.
“But if you’ve never done it before, you want to think a little bit about what your risk factors might be, and make sure that’s all addressed and controlled.”
There were about 5,000 finishers at the Monterey Bay Half Marathon, and both Gonzales and Heilemann said they plan to race and finish the Monterey Bay Half Marathon next year.