The Houston Fire Department honored faculty members for helping save the life of Monty Person, a runner who suffered a heart attack during a half marathon. From the left are Person, Elda Ramirez, Ph.D., R.N., FNP-C, and Konstantinos Charitakis, M.D.
The Houston Fire Department honored faculty members for helping save the life of Monty Person, a runner who suffered a heart attack during a half marathon. From the left are Person, Elda Ramirez, Ph.D., R.N., FNP-C, and Konstantinos Charitakis, M.D.

After suffering a major heart attack within sight of the finish line, a Louisiana runner lived to run another day thanks in part to faculty at McGovern Medical School and UTHealth School of Nursing.

“I want to thank everyone at UTHealth and Memorial Hermann,” said Monty Person, 58, of Eunice, who collapsed during the final leg of the Aramco Houston Half Marathon on Sunday, Jan. 15. A half marathon is a little over 13 miles.

UTHealth School of Nursing professor Elda Ramirez, Ph.D., R.N., treated Person at the scene and McGovern Medical School assistant professor, cardiovascular medicine, in the Department of Internal Medicine Konstantinos Charitakis, M.D., opened the man’s clogged artery at Memorial Hermann Heart & Vascular Institute-Texas Medical Center.

“Mr. Person had 100 percent blockage in his right coronary artery,” said Charitakis, a cardiologist who performed a cardiac catheterization procedure to open the obstruction with a stent. “That was a serious heart attack.”

While he exercises regularly, Person has a history of high cholesterol and at least one other family member with heart disease.

Now enrolled in a cardiac rehabilitation program in Louisiana, Person, a pharmacist, recently did seven minutes on a treadmill and plans to work himself back into running shape. He was running about 20 miles a week before the heart attack.

“I recall seeing the finish line and then I dropped,” said Person, who next remembers waking up in the hospital. “I don’t remember the ambulance ride.”

But, he did notice that his chest felt sore. “That’s where they did the chest compressions,” he said.

When Person collapsed, Ramirez and the other medical volunteers near the finish line went into high gear. “He was several hundred yards away and we went running,” Ramirez said.

Person did not have a pulse and the volunteers began cardiopulmonary resuscitation and administered a shock with a defibrillator, Ramirez said. “The care team that I was a part of handed the patient off to Houston Fire Department emergency medical services,” Ramirez said.

While runners sometimes collapse from exhaustion after a race, collapsing beforehand is less common and can indicate a heart problem, said Randolph Taylor II, M.D., a Memorial Hermann Southwest Hospital family medicine physician and the captain of a Finish Line Medical Team.

“I’m thankful that the team quickly recognized that this was a cardiac case,” said Taylor, whose medical team also included Daniel Arizpe, a member of the Cy-Fair Volunteer Fire Department, and Friedah Talabi, R.N.

Person had surgery and was released from the hospital two days later. He was back at work less than a week after the surgery. “I felt great at the hospital – like nothing happened,” Person said.

Person, a father of two, was one of a group of runners from Louisiana in Houston for the half marathon. “In fact, I did the Chevron 5K as a warmup the day before and felt fine.”

Person has been running for 10 years and has completed 11 half marathons in Louisiana, Texas and Nevada.

Person, whose wife Tonya is also a runner, is already planning his next run. “I may go a little slower next time,” he said.