It was a race to save him

Bystanders, EMS aid stricken man

A man went into cardiac arrest during the Boston Marathon. (Steve McLaughlin) A man went into cardiac arrest during the Boston Marathon.
By John M. Guilfoil and John R. Ellement
Globe Staff / April 20, 2010

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The sound of cheering during the Boston Marathon turned to silence yesterday during the last leg of the race after a runner collapsed in cardiac arrest on Beacon Street.

Quick-thinking bystanders and fast-responding emergency workers rushed to the side of the unidentified runner, who was described as a man in his 60s.

“His heart was not beating,’’ said Jennifer Mehigan, spokeswoman for Boston Emergency Medical Services.

When police officers and medics arrived, civilians were already performing cardiopulmonary resuscitation on the runner, who collapsed near the intersection of Beacon and Mountfort streets around 1:30 p.m. Two paramedics who were patrolling the marathon route on bicycles and the crew of an EMS ambulance parked 20 feet away arrived quickly and began assisting.

Steve McLaughlin, 48, saw the runner go down near where he was standing. McLaughlin, a photographer volunteering with the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute to take pictures of the cancer center’s runners, said the scene was shocking.

“It was very scary,’’ said McLaughlin, of Middletown, Conn. “Everybody was there cheering for their runners and everything, and then it got quiet.’’

McLaughlin said he was amazed to see how many people came over to help the fallen runner.

Janell Jimenez, an emergency medical technician with Boston EMS, responded and jumped in to do CPR. She had an automated external defibrillator, which was used to shock the man’s heart into restarting.

“It was so surreal how we can be at the right place at the right time with the right equipment,’’ said Jimenez, an EMT for 4 1/2 years. “And then maneuvering through the marathon — we thought that would be a challenge, but we were able to move right through the crowd.’’

As crews were loading the man into an ambulance, the automated defibrillator indicated that a shock to the heart was needed. Soon afterward, the man’s heart began to beat normally again, and he started breathing on his own.

The runner was transported to Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Mehigan said. The man was alert en route to the hospital, she said, and was listed in stable condition last night.

Jimenez lauded the bystanders for leaping to the man’s side.

“We encourage everybody to know CPR, and the difference that was made today was that these bystanders were able to recognize that this patient was not breathing and didn’t have a pulse, and their instinct was to give him CPR,’’ she said. “That probably was one of the factors for this gentleman being alive today.’’

Mehigan and Jimenez also credited Boston EMS Lieutenant Carlos Grau, EMT Kelley Cronin, EMT Zach Schiess, paramedic Gary Saffar, and paramedic Ed Hassan for coming to the man’s aid.

“It was an amazing team response, from the bystanders who began CPR to the Boston Police on scene to the EMTs and paramedics who worked together so well,’’ Mehigan said.