A cardiologist competing in a California half marathon saved the lives of two runners using CPR after he saw a man collapse in front of him and another at the finish line after completing the race.
Steven Lome had never seen anyone experience cardiac arrest during a road race and did not expect to use his professional skills outside of work.
While running the Monterey Bay Half Marathon in California on November 13, Lomé was able to save the lives of two men in their 50s and 60s.
He recounted the miraculous feat on Twitter, noting the “crazy odds” of being in the right place at the right time for both men.
‘What are the chances of two people going into cardiac arrest in a race? What are the chances that they both make a full recovery? (Normally only 5 percent survive outside of hospital cardiac arrest)’, Lome wrote.
“I am very honored to work as a cardiologist and use my training to benefit others, but I never expected those skills to be needed in this way outside of work.”
Lomé finished the half marathon in 2 hours, 30 minutes and 32 seconds
Lomé said he remembered the moment he saw Greg Gonzales, 67, of Vancouver, Washington, collapse about 30 feet in front of him about the third mile into the race.
He assessed that Gonzales had not just had a blackout or a trip, but rather was having a cardiac arrest.
“He started CPR, people called 911. The defibrillator came in about 6 minutes and the rhythm was ventricular fibrillation (fatal arrhythmia),” he said.
‘One shock and restoration of normal heart rhythm.’
The American Heart Association recommends hands-only CPR, which instructs the person performing chest compressions to press hard and fast into the center of the patient’s chest.
Thrust to the beat of the Bee Gees song “Stayin’ Alive,” Lome told The Washington Post.
“That’s because that’s the right pace,” he said.
Gonzales woke up two to three minutes after being shocked by an automated external defibrillator, saying the last thing he remembered about the race was speeding up a hill around the third mile.
But when he regained consciousness, he was in the back of an ambulance.
He posted about the heroic incident on Twitter commenting that he was ‘honored’ to be a cardiologist.
“I felt fine, apart from the terrible chest pain, and they indicated that the chest pain was due to rib fractures from the chest compressions,” Gonzales told the publication.
Lomé continued the race, finishing the half marathon in 2 hours, 30 minutes, and 32 seconds.
But just as he was crossing the finish line, Lomé wrote that he saw another runner fall in front of him.
‘Completely out. No pulse. Started CPR. Within 1-2 minutes, a race volunteer brought an AED and placed the pads on his chest.
‘The advised shock that indicates a fatal arrhythmia is again present. One shock and restart chest compressions.
‘He opens his eyes and says, ‘Why am I down here?’ then he proceeds to stop 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 the hospital after being revived.
Both Gonzales and Heilemann are runners with a family history of heart attack or heart disease.
Gonzales’s father died of a heart attack at 58 and his brother had a heart attack at 59.
“That’s why I ran, and I tried to keep my weight down, and I tried to eat the right foods,” he said.
Heilemann said his father, who died three years ago of heart disease, went into cardiac arrest when he was 56. His uncle and his cousin also died of heart disease.
Lome went on to add that they “both had undiagnosed heart disease” and that neither is “out of the hospital and fully recovered.”
Both men said they felt healthy heading into the race, but the fact that both survived can be partly attributed to the quick action of bystanders performing CPR and the availability of AEDs.
The incidents received national attention and offer lessons and reminders for runners of all levels, Lome said after thanking medical volunteers at the site.
“Congratulations to the medical volunteers in the race and to the Big Sur Marathon Foundation for their efforts in hosting the event with a large number of medical volunteers who were well trained and ready to go,” he said.
‘Being alert and ready to bring in an AED as quickly as possible saved two lives. I still can’t believe this has happened.
“THIS is why we need to focus America on heart disease prevention, since the first symptom of heart disease in 1 in 3 people is sudden death like the one these two individuals almost succumbed to.”
Other posts on Lome’s twitter show the cardiologist trying to reduce the risk of serious ailments as seen in this post on colon cancer.
Lome said cutting out processed foods and focusing on whole, plant-based 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,” said sports cardiologist Jonathan Kim.
“In general, if you exercise a lot, you eat healthy, you’re going to control your cholesterol, you’re going to control your blood pressure,” he said.
But there is nothing you can do to control your genes.
“If you have a strong family history that you tell your doctor about, then as you start to get past your 40s, 50s, it’s very important that you have proper cardiac evaluations and evaluation by a preventive cardiologist.”
Cardiologists also stress 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 pang 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 10 times.’
Then, about eight months ago, Gonzales had a “little inch” of pain in his left bicep.
He brushed off the pain and chalked it up to other things, like indigestion or pain from lifting weights.
Gonzales said that looking back, he should have gone to the doctor.
Sudden cardiac arrests are rare among road race participants, according to a 2012 study published in the New England Journal of Medicine.
The incidence rate is 0.54 per 100,000 participants, with a significantly higher rate during marathons compared to half marathons.
But the majority of those cases of cardiac arrest (71 percent) were fatal.
“A lot of people run marathons and do well,” Kim said.
“But if you’ve never done it before, you’ll want to think about what your risk factors might be and make sure all of those have been addressed and controlled.”
There were about 5,000 finishers in the Monterey Bay Half Marathon, and both Gonzales and Heilemann said they plan to run and finish the Monterey Bay Half Marathon next year.