Local News

Good Samaritans step up to help downed marathon runners

Posted April 17, 2014

— Dr. Joe Guzzo initially thought the man who fell near the finish line at the Raleigh Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon & Half Marathon on Sunday had tripped over another runner.

Guzzo, a cardiologist with Capital Heart Associates, was waiting for his niece to finish the race when his wife noticed Derrick Myers go down.

Others then ran to Myers and started resuscitation efforts. Guzzo jumped over a fence and ran over to help out.

“It was very, very scary, not so much because of what happened, but because of the setting,” Guzzo said. “These are supposed to be healthy, active runners. This is not supposed to happen. And when it happens, it’s very emotionally charged. It’s a scary thing.”

Myers, 35, never recovered after collapsing at the finish line. Described as a “health freak,” he was taken to a local hospital where he was pronounced dead.

Myers, who remembered at a service in Rocky Mount Thursday, was one of two people who collapsed and died during the race. Neither race organizers nor city officials have released the identity of the second person who died, only saying he was a 31-year-old who collapsed near the 11 mile marker of the half-marathon.

Sandro Gisler and his neighbors saw the man fall and immediately ran over to help him.

”We were checking out what he had, assessing the situation, checking to see if he was breathing and before I knew it somebody was doing CPR,” he said. “I was there holding his head. He was unresponsive at that point.”

Gisler described the man as young, healthy and athletic.

”Then the ambulance came, the fire truck came, it got tight," he said. "People had to get on the sidewalk where we are standing here. Later you reflect on that and it really sinks in.”

Cardiologists say that, while unusual for two men in their 30s to collapse during a race, those who experience such often have underlying, undiagnosed heart conditions.

“I think it would be a good idea to see a physician before you consider participation in strenuous endurance events,” said Dr. Pavlo Netrebko, a cardiologist with WakeMed Physician Practices. “The majority of those congenital conditions could be picked up at a routine screening at fairly low cost.”

Guzzo knew Myers’ survival chances were slim, but that didn’t stop him from doing what he could.

“It was an unbelievably helpless feeling, mostly because with the knowledge that we have, we know that when something like this happens, for the most part it’s very rare you can resuscitate a person,” he said.

EMS workers took over after 10-15 minutes.

The incident hasn’t deterred Guzzo from advising his patients to run. His 13-year-son is a runner and he tells him to prepare, use common sense and to pay attention to his body.

“I encourage my patients to be as active as they want to be,” he said. “Exercise does a tremendous amount of good.”

Guzzo’s wife and son peppered him with questions for days following the race. He also played the incident repeatedly in his head, wondering if he could’ve done anything different.

“I would absolutely do the same thing again…I did the right thing,” he said.


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