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Elite Runner Who Had a Heart Attack During Marathon Kept Alive by Spectators: 'They Saved My Life'

·3 min read
Meghan Roth
Meghan Roth

Meghan Roth/Instagram Meghan Roth

On the morning of the Boston Marathon, elite runner Meghan Roth felt ready to race. But eight miles in, she suddenly had a heart attack and collapsed on the pavement.

"It happened so quickly that I wasn't even able to — I just collapsed," Roth, 34, told The Washington Post. "I don't even remember hitting the ground, so when I woke up in the ambulance, I didn't realize the seriousness of it."

Watching the race from a nearby apartment, Marie Rodgers, a retired critical care nurse, spotted the Minnesota-based Roth fall to the ground.

"She got up with the help of another runner, but she appeared to be going down again," Rodgers told the Post.

Along with Cameron Howe, a nurse and her brother's roommate, Rodgers ran down to help and found Roth "lying face down, making incoherent sounds." The two nurses rolled her over, and Roth started having gasping breaths.

"Neither one of us could find a pulse, so I started CPR and called to a woman on the sideline to call 911," Rodgers said.

Rodgers performed chest compressions and Howe kept Roth's airway clear as another runner, a paramedic, stopped to help. After 15 minutes, an ambulance and EMTs arrived with Roth alive, but still unresponsive. After she was given three shocks, Roth regained consciousness.

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"I think my mind immediately went to: 'I just passed out. I didn't think I went into cardiac arrest, right?' I was just, I was thinking I passed out, and I wasn't exactly sure what had happened," she said. "So when I woke up, I was instantly devastated and like: 'What just happened to me? Why?' Because it happened so early in the race."

Roth soon realized, though, that she "was so lucky to be here."

"I felt like I could be dead right now. It's just amazing and unbelievable."

At the hospital, now awake, Roth wanted to leave to take her scheduled flight home to see her 10-month-old son Jaxon, but was told she needed to immediately undergo surgery to get an ICD in her chest, an implantable cardioverter defibrillator, which detects life-threatening, irregular heartbeats.

Roth's doctors said her sudden heart attack may be due to a family history of heart disease, or a complication from COVID-19, which she had in August before she was vaccinated. She was able to go home on Oct. 15, four days after the race, and planning on doing short walks with her son as she recovers before she's cleared to run again

Rodgers and Howe, meanwhile, didn't know what happened to Roth after she was loaded into the ambulance and spent the next few days "wondering, 'What we tried to do, was it enough?' " Howe said in an interview with Boston College, where he's currently in nursing school. They eventually found a GoFundMe page for Roth with updates and learned that she was doing well.

All three of them have been emailing and Rodgers and Roth recently reunited over Zoom, during an interview with WCVB News, where Rodgers was able to fill Roth in on everything she missed while she was unconscious.

"I'm so lucky they were there," Roth told WCVB of Howe and Rogers. "They saved my life, and I don't think I can ever thank them enough."

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