Cardiac arrest marathoner gets finishers' shirt, medal
Friday's Heart and Stroke Walk team kickoff rally at Legacy Meridian Park Hospital was more than just a pow-wow to get everyone thinking about the upcoming event and to highlight the importance of hands-only CPR.
It was a morning full of surprises.
Surprises that came quickly with the morning focus on Meridian Park nurse manager Kirstyn Rossman and her successful efforts in helping save the life of 61-year-old Dave Brenner, who went into cardiac arrest during the Portland Marathon last fall.
Rossman, of Beaverton, was the first to administer hand-only CPR, ultimately credited with saving the Breckenridge, Colo., man's life.
After some introductions about the morning events, Allyson Anderson, president of Legacy Meridian Park Medical Center, praised Rossman (for helping save the life of Brenner by administrating CPR), noting that it would be nice if Brenner could be there for the event.
"Oh wait," she suddenly exclaimed. "He is."
With that bombshell, Rossman and Brenner were reunited for only the second time since Brenner's near-fatal attempt to finish the marathon's 26.2-mile course.
Soon Rossman helped demonstrate the so-called "chain of survival," in which everyone from the 911 operator to cardiac specialists and support staff at the hospital helped Brenner make it through.
Using a mannequin, the nurse demonstrated the rhythm of CPR compressions, using the Bee Gees' "Staying Alive" to keep the rhythm.
Jan Lee, a public information officer for Metro West ambulance service, explained the importance of the training Rossman and the paramedics received, noting the significance of immediately performing CPR on those who need it and following it up with an electrical shock if necessary.
Then came another surprise with the appearance by J.P Fogerty and Erik Sonnenberg, the Metro West paramedics first at the scene. The pair helped save Brenner by continuing the CPR that Rossman had started.
"And about 30 seconds later, Dave woke up," recalled Fogerty, noting that it was the first time in his career that he was able to meet, in person, a patient who went into cardiac arrest and survived.
Sonnenberg said he thrilled with the outcome of the event as well.
"It was really cool," he said, pointing out that during his tenure as a paramedic, he has only known of one other person who essentially "coded" and was later reunited with those who helped save him. "It was probably the best CPR I've seen at an incident before."
Joking with the paramedics during the event, Brenner said he remembers waking up as the pair performed CPR on him.
"I didn't see angels but one apparently appeared over my chest and gave me CPR," he recalled.
As a souvenir, both paramedics presented Brenner with a printout of his EKG, giving him a visual representation of what his heart was doing while in their care. Brenner said he eventually plans to frame it.
Then came a final surprise.
Stella Scott, a medical volunteer coordinator for the Portland Marathon, presented Brenner with a coveted finishers' shirt and medal. Brenner, who only was able to able to complete half of the marathon, appeared incredulous.
"The shirt and medal are a complete surprise," he said.
The items were more than just mementos — like the ones he has received from the previous 137 marathons he's run throughout his life — he said, noting: "This is the first one I didn't finish."
(He plans to return, to run in the half marathon in Portland next fall.)
Scott said there have been other incidents similar to Brenner's in the past at the Portland Marathon but he was the only runner — out of an almost 6,400 — who went into cardiac arrest during the 2017 event.
She said the medical plan the marathon organizers had in place worked.
"This is fantastic," she said. "This is exactly what we want."
The fact that Brenner scored a shirt and medal even though he didn't finish was a bit unusual as well.
"This is very rare and a special circumstance," said Scott. "We do it once in a blue moon."
For her part, Rossman said she was glad she was in the right place at the right time.
"(Brenner) was running towards me," she recalled, noting that if all the many elements necessary for them to meet hadn't all came together — say, if he or she had been 60 seconds in either direction — the outcome of the day could have been quite different.
"When you think of all those factors, you can't just say, 'OK, that was a really great accident,'" Rossman said.
Before Friday's presentation was over, Lanette Trickey, executive director of the American Heart Association's Oregon and Southwest Washington division, presented Rossman with the organization's Heartsaver Hero Award.
Meanwhile, as television reporters interviewed Brenner, they told him Rossman doesn't consider herself a hero.
He wasn't buying it.
"She saved my life," he said. "She was just being modest."