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Saturday, March 12, 2011

Race 10: November 21 - Tulsa, Oklahoma

I've been procrastinating writing about this race. This was by far the worst race I've ever been to. It was a horrible, gut-wrenching experience. At this race, I saw a young man die.

I was shortly behind the 27 year old guy when he collapsed. When I saw confusion, I sped up and reached the man just as a cardiac nurse was starting chest compressions. I was just one of many racers who stopped to help and offered to take over when the nurse tired, which she never did. She was amazing. For a full 6 minutes, she performed CPR. I just sat, helpless, feeling for his femoral pulse. His pulse was at best, thready and weak, at worst, nonexistent. The only air that came out of him was agonal breathing.

After a couple of minutes of compressions, we wondered where in the world the EMTs could be with the AED, so I sprinted down to a police officer that I had seen. When I asked him if he knew where the closest AED was, he gave me no verbal answer. Nor did he seem to care that there was a runner who cardiac arrested. He just grunted in the direction of the distant-sounding ambulance sirens.

Frustrated, I sprinted back to a medical tent. Again, this was useless. While the medical volunteers at least seemed genuinely concerned, they said that there were no AEDs on the course. I was shocked to hear this since a runner had previously passed away during this race.

When I made it back to the man, the nurse was still performing compressions. She was intense, concentrating on trying to keep this young guy (a kid in my 30+ mind) alive. Shortly after I returned, a race official pulled up on a golf cart. He asked if any of us knew the man. None of us did. The only thing that we knew was that his first name was Marcus--it was printed on his bib. The official seemed confused when we runners explained to him that Marcus was not carrying any keys and no longer had his bag claim tag attached to his bib, so it was logical to assume that he checked a bag at the bag check tent. We explained to the official that the bag would contain Marcus's personal items. But, again, the official just looked confused and stood staring at us for way too long.

By the time the ambulance reached Marcus, the four minute window for the best response to the AED had elapsed by two full minutes. The EMTs took over compressions and hooked the man up to the AED, but it was to no avail. He was never revived. And my heart broke as they took him away because I knew he would soon be pronounced dead.

After Marcus was loaded into the ambulance and taken to a nearby hospital, the nurse (whose name I unfortunately forgot) and I walked together for a mile. She was an amazing person, and she, too, was disappointed in the emergency response time. After a mile of walking and talking, we fell into silence. Then we went our own ways. She decided to run to the finish line (where, incidentally, she greeted me with a hug when I finished). And I decided to call my mother and cry.

I was just so upset with the race situation and needed to talk to someone about why I never want to run in Tulsa again. The medical tents were not well stocked, race officials were clueless, and the police monitoring the course were rude and not helpful.

(In case you're interested in Marcus's story, here's an article about his death. His family and friends continue to be in my thoughts and prayers.)