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Update on Chilly Half runner

Scott Matheson collapsed in cardiac arrest near the finish line on March 3. Thanks to onsite medical staff and the proximity to Joseph Brant Hospital, Matheson survived and is recovering

A week ago, we reported that a runner collapsed in cardiac arrest not far from the finish line of the Chilly Half-Marathon in Burlington, Ont. Scott Matheson, 60, of Toronto, received medical attention immediately, and was transported to Joseph Brant Hospital. Matheson has had surgery to insert a stent in his heart, and is still recovering. He’s expected to be released from hospital early next week, but is facing several months’ recovery at home before he can return to work (or running).

RELATED: Toronto runner collapses at Chilly Half

The race’s medical staff had to use a defibillator and CPR on Matheson several times to bring him back. The percentage of patients who survive a cardiac arrest outside of a hospital is known to be extremely low (between five and seven per cent). Thankfully, the hospital is only a short distance from the finish line.

Joy Kramarich was the first member of the race’s medical team to attend to Matheson. “I am so happy that things worked out well and that he is alive,” Karamarich told us. “I am a trauma nurse in Toronto, and given my 35 years of experience, he might not have lived. He was over 10 minutes without vital signs.”

Matheson had been training with Marathon Dynamics Inc. of Toronto and coach Kevin Smith, who stayed with him in the hospital until his wife Erica (who was at their son Ethan’s hockey game while the race was on) could get there.

Kevin Smith, Matheson’s running buddy Tina Marzocca, Scott Matheson and race director Kelly Arnott, who presented Matheson with his race medal

We reached Erica Matheson by phone today.

“He’s made great progress, considering that virtually a week ago his heart stopped,” she told us, explaining that Scott has no memory of what happened, and has experienced some confusion and agitation due to lack of oxygen to the brain during his cardiac arrest. “He thinks he’s invincible and can go back out and keep walking and running, but it’s not like that,” she says.

Matheson with Joy Kramarich, the trauma nurse who was first on the scene. Photo: Chilly Half Marathon

Once at the hospital, Matheson was put into a medically induced coma and was on a ventilator. “For two days I didn’t know if I would get my husband back or not,” Erica says. By Tuesday Scott’s eyes were open, but he was unable to understand or respond.

“For the next few days we were just in limbo figuring out if his memory would come back, or if his behaviour would be different. They warn you that sometimes with this type of injury it’s not uncommon to have a brain issue in terms of… some people don’t recognize their own family. He did recognize us, but didn’t remember us being there for about three days after he woke up. He woke up Tuesday, but would just look around and we would talk to him and tell him how much we loved him. He would smirk in recognition, but he doesn’t remember any of it.”

Matheson was transported to Hamilton General Hospital on Friday for an angiogram, which found that he had a 95 per cent blockage in the right side of his heart.

“They said he was really lucky, because two years ago he was 60 pounds heavier,” Erica says, explaining that Scott had run about 15 marathons before Ethan (who is now 15) was born, but drifted into a less healthy lifestyle in the years following. “He started back up in September 2017, saying ‘I have to change my lifestyle and get off the couch.’ He started walking 30,000 to 40,000 steps a day with our dogs, and went on a diet and lost the weight, which took him about a year. And then he started running, signing up for Marathon Dynamics. He was involved in the group twice a week, and did the training Kevin had suggestested.” Matheson ran two half-marathons last fall and one earlier this winter, in Barbados.

Matheson works for Post Media, in distribution.

Erica says the running community has been tremendously supportive, and expressed her extreme gratitude.