Doug Webb introduced Gregory, an athlete who had a heart attack at age 40. Greg has written a book called Open Heart Runner on his experience of suffering a cardiac arrest at the end of an 8K and his recovery from that experience 16 years ago.


In the spirit of Literacy Week and commenting that it is not just babies that can be read to, Greg read from the prologue of his book about the moment of the cardiac arrest. Fortunately for Greg there was an ER physician (Ron Youngash) right behind him in the race who immediately started CPR and a retired anesthesiologist (Cheryl Wood) who started mouth to mouth which was continued by dentist Rachel Staples. They continued working on Greg for 20 minutes. 

Many wonder why people put themselves through long races and cite people like Jim Fix as an example of the number of people that die while doing so. There is a great sense of camaraderie and well-being that accompanies running and racing. 

Once in the ambulance, chest compressions and mouth to mouth were continued for another 20 minutes during which Greg flatlined. In hospital, they put him into an induced coma for two days. Family was told that if he followed them with his eyes when he came out of the coma that would indicate some brain activity. Greg said hello! There were gaps in his memory however. He didn't know his youngest son and his daughter and other son appeared much younger than they were. There was a brain gap of about 5 years in his memory.

It turned out Greg had three blocked arteries (associated with kawasaki disease he is thought to have had as a teenager) and he underwent a triple by-pass. Greg and his family all walked together in a 10 K not long afterwards. He has run a couple of half marathons since - one 11 years later with his daughter. 

The experience allowed Greg to think about priorities. He has some residual brain damage but was able to go back to teaching continuing ed after two years. He has discovered that the brain does heal. It has amazing plasticity and has learned to function in the way it did in the past with only a small gap in his memory around the event. Some of his learnings are that (paraphrased):

  • life is tenuous
  • you can't count on staying the same
  • family is paramount
  • prayer is important
  • you learn more by walking than running
  • you respond to goodness
  • it's good to sleep more and play more
  • concerns about health are universal
  • we don't really know what's going on inside our body
  • doctors don't really know what's going on inside our bodies
  • the heart is more than a muscle
  • change and failure teaches
  • wearing your heart on your sleeve is better than not
  • the closer you get to death, the clearer things become
  • life is simple if you treat it simply

in response to questions:

Has no memory of the day. Thinks that may be a good thing - not something the body wants to remember.

Kawasaki disease usually strikes children. Aneurisms develop over time. His running helped him develop collateral arteries which likely saved his life. He had no symptoms except for vomiting after a race about 4 months before the heart attack.

After surgery, he got better times.

He recommends walking.

Troy Alexander thanked Greg and the Club made a donation to the Cridge Centre in his honour.