‘I don’t really remember anything’
Man who ‘died’ running half-marathon plans to run it again
KENNETT SQUARE >> He didn’t see a bright light or pearly gates, but Shawn Stevens now knows he was clinically dead on the football field of Kennett High School last week after completing a 13.1-mile halfmarathon.
“I don’t really remember anything,” said Stevens, 60, who lives in north Wilmington, Delaware. “I remember crossing the finishing line, taking two steps, and the next thing I remember is that I was in the emergency room (at Chester County Hospital).”
Stevens went into cardiac arrest. Dr. Ricky Haug, the volunteer lead on-site physician, was immediately at the scene. He was joined by another physician, Rebecca Armbruster, who was helpful checking pulses. Dr. Andy Kolb also began giving Stevens CPR. Haug said Stevens had no pulse and
“At some point, I see no reason not to get back into racing. But I want to make sure the guy ahead of me and the guy behind me is a doctor, and there is an AED close by.”
— Shawn Stevens
When Haug took over, Stevens was lying on the ground, motionless. Haug said he wasn’t breathing and had no pulse. CPR was performed, and an automated external defibrillator (AED) eventually helped to bring Stevens back to life.
Stevens said he was in top shape to run the race.
“I don’t consider myself in the same class as other people,” he said. “I have run 10 or 12 half-marathons in my life, and run several 10Ks a year. I run several times a week, doing 5 or 6 miles at a time.”
But Stevens said it was an undiagnosed condition that apparently caused him to collapse. Normally, the heart’s aortic valve has three flaps (leaflets) that regulate blood flow by opening and closing, allowing blood to flow throughout the body. One of those valves failed to work properly, Stevens said. He had surgery last week to correct the condition. Doctors replaced his aortic valve and said he has no signs of coronary artery disease.
Stevens said that although his mother has cholesterol readings over 300 and his father suffers from high blood pressure, he has not had any medical problems and gets routine annual physical exams.
“This is the first time I have been physically in a hospital in over 40 years,” he said.
Stevens said he was proud to finish the halfmarathon in under two hours at his age, and said he plans to continue running after his rehab, and after his doctors clear him.
“At some point, I see no reason not to get back into racing,” he said. “But I want to make sure the guy ahead of me and the guy behind me is a doctor, and there is an AED close by.”
Stevens, who is employed in managing positions with nonprofits like the American Red Cross and the United Way, insists he did not push himself during the Kennett Square Mushroom Cap Half Marathon.
“I really wasn’t fatigued during the race,” he said. “I took water at the stations, and I wasn’t scraping the ground. The hills were challenging. It was a good race.”
Stevens said he intends to register for next year’s Kennett Square half-marathon.
“This ended up to be a good story for me,” he said.
Shawn Stevens was proclaimed clinically dead at the Kennett half-marathon, but was revived and plans to continue running.