Man meets doctor who saved his life

SPRINGFIELD, Pa. - December 24, 2013

61-year-old Jack Benning had been looking forward to meeting Dr. Keli Donnelly since late September, since she saved his life.

That's when Benning, a veteran runner, ran the Rock & Roll half-marathon.

Dr. Donnelly of Crozer-Keystone Health System was on the medical team at the race.

Just before the finish line, he went down.

"I just ran toward where I was told someone had collapsed," Dr. Donnelly said. "He was laying on the ground, and he was unresponsive."

No breathing and no pulse.

A blocked heart artery had put Benning's heart into a deadly flutter.

CPR and then a shock from an AED restarted his heart in 30 seconds.

"I don't remember anything of that day at all," Benning said.

At the hospital, his body was cooled to reduce brain damage. It worked.

Benning has no lasting effects from his heart attack.

Although the artery blockage was likely building for years, his only warning sign was brief chest pain last spring.

"It was easy to write off. I said 'OK, that's purely indigestion,'" Benning said. Now he has two stents in the artery and is cleared to run again.

"I think his health is much better today than it was before the marathon," Dr. David Webner of Crozer-Keystone Health System said.

And he is thankful for all of the people, mostly strangers, who helped save his life.

"It's restored my faith in humanity for the number of people who stepped up," Benning said.

Benning is very fortunate. In the medical community, we say "time is muscle," meaning the longer blood flow is blocked, the longer the heart muscle is not getting oxygen.

The fact that he was treated and shocked so quickly made a huge difference. Doctor Webner thinks veteran runners sometimes push too hard and ignore subtle signs of a problem.

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