AKRON, Ohio - A Canton man who went into cardiac arrest during a half-marathon last weekend in Cleveland wants to find and thank the emergency workers who saved his life.
Richard Strain said that he felt what he thought was heartburn about a mile into Cleveland's half-marathon last Sunday. He made it another five miles before the pain became so severe that he was forced to start walking.
Strain doesn't remember much after that.
The 45-year-old woke up in a hospital emergency room coughing up blood, gasping for air and surrounded by doctors and nurses.
"I was like, `What the hell happened to me?'?" Strain told the Akron Beacon Journal on Friday in the cardiac intensive-care unit at MetroHealth Medical Center, where he was surrounded by his parents and girlfriend.
He said he has no memory of the emergency workers on the race course who shocked him with an automated external defibrillator and probably saved his life. Strain had to be shocked again once he arrived at the hospital.
Strain said he's thankful to be alive and hopes to run again when he's healthy again.
Not everyone who went through what he did survives.
A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine last year found that of the 59 long-distance runners who experienced cardiac arrest between 2000 and 2010, only 17 survived.
Strain's doctor, Sanjay Gandhi, attributed his survival to the quick actions of the emergency workers at the race.
He said Strain had 100 percent blockage in one of his arteries. He now has a stent in that artery.
"It was inevitable," Strain said. "It was a matter of when, not if."
Gandhi said that Strain has little damage to the heart muscle, should make a full recovery and could even run again someday.
Strain, who still has chest pain from the compressions, was expected to be released sometime over the Memorial Day weekend.
"This is the longest I've sat around for two years now," he said, referring to an exercise regimen that helped him lose 60 pounds.
Although he is eager to leave the hospital, Strain has kept his sense of humor through the ordeal.
When he first woke up after surgery, Strain had to communicate by writing on paper. One of the first things he wrote was a reference to a T-shirt that he and his girlfriend saw at the race and thought was funny.
The shirt said "If I collapse, please stop my Garmin," referring to the GPS device that some runners use to track distance and time.
Strain wrote: "Did you stop my Garmin?"
"I busted up laughing," said his girlfriend, Milisa Fabian of Canton. "In his worst time, he's there to make me laugh and smile."