Father of three recovers from a heart attack after running the Chicago Marathon

A 32-year-old father gets a second chance after receiving emergency heart care at Ascension Saint Joseph in Joliet, Illinois, after running a marathon.

Brian Booth of Mokena, Illinois, has always lived an athletic lifestyle to help manage his high cholesterol. That's why, after nine months of training for the Chicago Marathon, he was surprised that on the day of the event he would experience a heart attack.

Even as a boy, Brian, now 32, had to learn how to manage his higher-than-average cholesterol. Heart disease ran in his family and for years, he and his sister took medications to manage it as well as stayed active. "My father passed away at the age of 37 from a heart attack," he said. "I played three sports in high school and took care of myself and all of that to get ahead of this high cholesterol issue."

The Chicago Marathon is a 26-mile course, and it was Brian's first time participating in it. However, two days before the event, he did a quick two-mile run to train that left him feeling out of breath. "In my head, I thought I must have a respiratory cough or some sort of chest congestion going on, causing me difficulty breathing right now," he said.

The marathon day was going as planned until five miles into the run when he experienced shortness of breath, vomiting, blurred vision and skin discoloration. Brian completed the marathon, but his journey to the finish line was a challenge, and he continued to feel worse hours after the race.

Advanced emergency care for heart attacks

Brian's sister, a nurse practitioner at Ascension Saint Joseph-Joliet, suggested they visit the emergency room, and she called ahead to have the care team receive Brian when they arrived. The emergency care team went over Brian's family and medical history, and after a few lab tests and oxygen, Brian was told that his troponin levels were “very high.”

"My levels were conclusive of someone having a heart attack," he said. "This can also happen from somebody putting their body through an extreme event like running a marathon."

Govind Ramadurai, MD, an interventional cardiologist at Ascension Saint Joseph-Joliet, requested an urgent cardiac catheterization that determined Brian had 100% blockage in his arteries. Dr. Ramaduari removed the blockage and placed two stents in the large arteries of his heart. He was sent to the ICU to recover and put on a balloon pump after the procedure to help his heart work better; it was then functioning at only 34%. However, he was still having a hard time breathing because his lungs were filled with fluid due to the blocked artery and the extra water he drank during the marathon. After about six days in the ICU, he started to feel better.

Strangely enough, the doctor told Brian that his participation in the marathon saved his life. As one part of his heart was damaged because of the blockage, the other half of his heart kept pumping to keep up with his running. "You would think when you have a heart attack while running the marathon that it was something too extreme to do in my condition," he said. "But the running gave me the best chance because my heart was strong enough to make it through."

Personalized treatment plans for follow-up heart care

Once Brian was ready to be discharged from the hospital, Dr. Ramadurai created a follow-up plan to aggressively lower his cholesterol with different medications, injections, and a strict diet. Within a month of recovering at home, he started running again. Brian still has one artery with a blockage that his heart care team is monitoring for a potential procedure in a few months, but doing cardiovascular activity is going to help him in his recovery. "I got a second chance at life after all of that. We caught it, made a plan, and I'm still much healthier today," he said. 

The father of three is happy to be here. He is also pleased about the care he and his family received, which he says was a "traumatic experience" since losing his father from a heart attack. "Going through something like that and having good people around is important. They were just fantastic," he said. 

Advanced heart care, close to home

When you choose Ascension Saint Joseph for your heart and vascular care, you get an entire team trained to deliver the latest therapeutics and surgery to help prevent, diagnose, manage, and treat heart and vascular diseases. Visit ascension.org/ILHeart to learn more about advanced heart care in Chicagoland.