Heart attack patient rebuilds his health: ‘I’m still running’


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46-year-old Phu Tran suffered cardiac arrest at the 12.5-mile mark of the Dallas Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon.

Not much keeps Phu Tran down. At least, not for long.

On March 22, 2015, the 46-year-old pharmacist was running with his family in the Dallas Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon. A naturally competitive athlete, Tran started the race at an easy pace but pushed himself harder as the miles went by. When he had the finish line in sight, he pushed just a little harder – and then everything went dark.

Tran suffered cardiac arrest at the 12.5-mile mark. “Eight out of 10 people who have a heart attack while they’re running pass away,” Tran says. But when he collapsed, he was spotted immediately by two volunteers with Race Guards, a program in which medical professionals participate in a race and provide medical assistance to their fellow runners if needed.

Thanks to those volunteers and the Dallas Fire and Rescue team, Tran was revived and taken to Parkland Hospital, where he was evaluated by UT Southwestern cardiologist Benjamin Levine, M.D., and underwent minimally invasive surgery to have a stent implanted in one of his arteries. “I was back home just 24 hours after my surgery,” Tran says.

Afterward, Tran was eager to get back to running as a way to rebuild his health. So in addition to medical therapy, Dr. Levine gave Tran a running protocol that allowed him to safely return to his routine. He says he’s in better shape now than before his heart attack.

“I’ve run 12 marathons since that day,” he says, and he has at least five races planned for this year. Though he didn’t finish the race in 2015, Tran completed the 2016 Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon – running alongside Race Guards volunteer Laura Dowd, the woman who saved his life the year before.

“I still see Dr. Levine every year to make sure I’m on the right track,” Tran says. “And I still share my story every time I can.” Doing so not only honors those who saved his life, Tran says, but also helps others see that it’s always possible to get healthy again. “I want people to hear my story and see that I’m still running.”