60-Year-Old Survives Heart Attack

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

If there is such a thing as ideal circumstances under which to have a heart attack, R.J. Turner experienced them yesterday.

Turner, 60, of Winchester, Va., went into cardiac arrest at about 8:30 a.m. Sunday just after the start of the Marine Corps Marathon in Arlington. Fortunately, he collapsed close to several trained medical personnel -- including fellow marathoner Frederick C. Lough , the director of cardiac surgery at George Washington University Hospital.

Turner's life was saved as a result, and he is expected to be released from the hospital within 24 hours, according to Lough.

"It's nice to know so many people were working on making sure I'd see my 60th birthday," said Turner, whose birthday was Sunday. "Definitely somebody is watching out for me."

Turner had walked and run a total exceeding 1,300 miles in preparation for his 10th Marine Corps Marathon. He has a history of high blood pressure, but he said he felt "in pretty good shape" when the race began.

"I crossed the start line and there was an overpass [Memorial Drive] maybe 1,000 feet away," Turner said. "I was looking up at the people on the overpass, and that's the last thing I remember."

Turner, in fact, ran about 100 more yards before collapsing in the middle of a sea of runners. Moments later, Lough spotted him on the ground being tended to by a nurse.

"Something about the position of his legs just made me think this wasn't just a twisted ankle or knee," Lough said.

Lough and the nurse determined that Turner was unconscious, not breathing and had no pulse. With the help of Prince George's County firefighter Jaimee Joroff and another medic, both of whom also were running the race, they administered CPR for about three minutes until an on-site ambulance navigated the crowd of runners and arrived, Lough said.

With runners surging past, paramedics defibrillated Turner on the pavement and restarted his heart.

"I actually died," Turner said, "and they brought me back."

Because of Lough's position at GW, he jumped into the ambulance and directed the driver to the hospital. There, John Reiner determined one of the arteries in Turner's heart was 98 percent blocked. Turner underwent angioplasty to correct the problem, and he is expected to recover, according to Lough.

"He's extraordinarily lucky to be alive," Lough said. Another runner, Earl Seyford , 56, of Olney, died Sunday afternoon after collapsing during the race.

-- Rich Campbell

© 2006 The Washington Post Company