On March 3, Scott Matheson of Toronto collapsed in cardiac arrest at the finish line of the Chilly Half Marathon in Burlington, Ont. He was unresponsive for almost 10 minutes as medical staff worked on him, shocking his heart with a defibrillator several times and performing CPR as they transported him to Joseph Brant Hospital nearby. A few days later, he was taken to Hamilton for surgery to insert a stent in a blocked blood vessel, and was eventually was released to recover at home.
“Every time I see Joy (Kramarich, the trauma nurse who was first on the scene at the Chilly Half), she says, ‘You were VSA (vital signs absent) for 10 minutes!'” says Matheson. “But you have to want to die, and I wanted to live.” Matheson recently completed a 12-week cardiac rehabilitation program at the University of Toronto’s Mississauga campus, though he has been back at work at his job in the distribution department at Post Media since April 11. “When they went to put the stent in on the Friday, I was arguing about having to take a transport vehicle to the hospital in Hamilton, and they said ‘you’re gonna live–you’re stubborn.'”
Matheson has made an excellent recovery, by all accounts, and has resumed running and racing, though more slowly and conservatively before, following his doctor’s instructions and using a heartrate monitor. We spotted him volunteering at the Marathon Dynamics water station on the Sporting Life 10K course in Toronto in May, but though we spoke to his his wife, his coach, the race director of the Chilly Half and Kramarich, this week we spoke to Matheson himself for the first time. He talks fast, and is clearly a man brimming over with life, and the joy of being given a second chance. Says Kramarich: “I’m just so thrilled that Scott is doing well and able to participate in running.”
His first race was on Canada Day–appropriately enough, in Burlington. Matheson expresses particular appreciation for Kelly Arnott, race director of the Chilly Half and a number of other races in the Burlington area. “She was great and kept in constant touch… She has reached out to Erica and visited me in the hospital. And she always gives me a high five as I cross the finish line! I will be back for the Frosty 10K in March and hopefully Chilly 2021.”
Matheson raced not one, but two 5K races this past Saturday–Burlington’s Butter Tart Festival in the morning, and Shakespeare Runs the Night in Toronto in the evening. He admits his cardiologist is “not a huge running fan,” but he’s very careful to keep his heartrate between 120 and 140 bpm, running very conservatively and slowing to a walk when necessary to keep it in that range. He underwent a stress test this week, and both his case manager and the program doctor at Trillium Health Partners are happy with his results, indicating he may now run a little bit faster and a little bit farther.
While he was still in hospital, Matheson displayed some neurological symptoms, such as confusion and agitation, that had his loved ones concerned. When asked about any lingering effects of that nature, he pauses, then guffaws loudly. “If you ask my wife, she’d say yes. I say no. They say I should have brain damage, and I say, it can’t get any worse than it already is! I kid about it, but I walk fine, I run fine, my memory is great, and I have no problems at work. I tell myself I’ve been very lucky.”
Matheson says he can’t keep up with his old training group, Marathon Dynamics, but he enjoys the social aspect, and shows up from time to time to just do what he can (and he’s deeply grateful to coach Kevin Smith and the group for their ongoing support). Matheson has several 10K races planned this fall.
“I’m a glass half-full kind of guy.”