Hen­rico man: ‘God got me through’

Richmond Times-Dispatch Weekend - - Metro - BY MICHAEL PAUL WIL­LIAMS Rich­mond Times-Dis­patch

Dr. Teresa Stadler Cam­den was wait­ing for her hus­band to cross the fin­ish line at the Pa­triot’s Sprint triathlon at Jamestown Beach Event Park on Sept. 10 when she heard the call: “Medic to the fin­ish line.”

Cam­den, a sports medicine physi­cian, re­sponded, spot­ting an un­re­spon­sive man ly­ing 20 me­ters from the fin­ish line. She grabbed the man by the an­kles and raised his legs to get blood flow­ing to his brain, her view of the victim ob­scured by the other peo­ple work­ing on him. She glanced over her shoul­der to see if she could spot her hus­band fin­ish­ing his race.

Above the din of the race and the am­bu­lance, she heard some­one ask whose life they were try­ing to save: “What’s this guy’s name?”

“Christo­pher Cam­den,” came the re­ply.

Just briefly, she thought some­one had called her hus­band’s name as he crossed the fin­ish line. Then, re­al­ity set in.

“I started scream­ing for him to wake up and scream­ing for the med­i­cal team to do their work and scream­ing for the good Lord to save him,” Cam­den re­called Fri­day. Her voice choked with emo­tion as she re­called the pad­dles be­ing ap­plied to her hus­band’s chest to shock his heart back into ac­tion.

As Dr. James McCorry fought to save her 46-yearold hus­band’s life, she said, “I re­al­ized that I was fran­tic and Dr. McCorry wasn’t. I de­cided I’m go­ing to play wife right now and let him play doc­tor.”

“He was out a full eight min­utes — no heart­beat; no breath­ing,” she said. Af­ter be­ing taken to hos­pi­tals in Wil­liams­burg and New­port News, he landed at VCU Med­i­cal Cen­ter, where he un­der­went a dou­ble by­pass Tues­day.

Two days later, Christo­pher Cam­den — an Army vet­eran of the Per­sian Gulf War who is now a teacher’s aide at Hol­man Mid­dle School in Hen­rico County — took a stroll out­side the in­ten­sive care unit, still con­nected to tubes.

On Fri­day, he sat in his hos­pi­tal room, re­call­ing what lit­tle he could about how he landed there.

He was no stranger to the sort of sprint triathlon he par­tic­i­pated last Sun­day — a 750-me­ter swim in the James River, a 20-kilo­me­ter bike ride along state Route 5, and a flat 5-kilo­me­ter (3-mile) run to the fin­ish. It rep­re­sented no ex­tra­or­di­nary chal­lenge to an in­di­vid­ual who had com­pleted marathons and half-marathons. But Christo­pher Cam­den no­ticed some­thing alarm­ing at the 1-mile marker of the run.

“That’s when I felt a deep heart­burn sen­sa­tion, if you would, right in the mid­dle of my chest,” he re­called.

He slowed his pace, try­ing to walk off the pain, and be­gan to run again. The sen­sa­tion re­turned. Head­ing into the home­stretch, he was de­ter­mined to reach the fin­ish line a short dis­tance away. “I was in pain to the point I sim­ply passed out and col­lapsed.

... That’s all I re­mem­ber.”

He was wear­ing two bracelets on his right wrist. One said “God Strong” and Eph­e­sians 6:11-12, which reads in part, “Put on the full ar­mor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.”

“So God got me through all this,” he said.

His wife won­ders how her hus­band had run 7-minute miles with two ar­ter­ies blocked more than 90 per­cent. His con­di­tion­ing blinded her to the pos­si­bil­ity that he was the fallen run­ner she was help­ing to treat.

“I never would imag­ine in 5,000 years that it was him be­cause I was lit­er­ally hold­ing his feet up while I was look­ing the other way.”

In hind­sight, Christo­pher Cam­den says his heart prob­lem was a ge­netic time bomb; his fa­ther un­der­went a quin­tu­ple by­pass at age 48.

This is not the first week the cou­ple’s de­vo­tion to fit­ness re­sulted in trauma.

Five years ago, be­fore they were mar­ried, Teresa was hit by a mo­torist as she rode her bike, a crash that broke 14 bones and in­jured her spine, leg and arm. She spent a chunk of their en­gage­ment in a wheel­chair.

“To this day, I can’t feel cer­tain parts of my leg and my foot,” she said. But she has re­cov­ered well enough to have par­tic­i­pated in the Pa­triot’s In­ter­na­tional Triathlon — a 1,500-me­ter swim, a 40K bike ride and a 10K run — the day be­fore her hus­band’s race.

The western Hen­rico cou­ple have been mar­ried for four years. Teresa Cam­den has three chil­dren — 10-year-old daugh­ter Alexa and two teenage sons, Reece and Bren­nan — from a pre­vi­ous mar­riage.

As they pulled into the bay of a Wil­liams­burg hos­pi­tal last Sun­day, her hus­band came around. “His first words were, ‘Did I fin­ish the race?’ ” she said.

His wife cringes to think what might have hap­pened if Cam­den had col­lapsed a quar­ter-mile ear­lier, or suf­fered his at­tack dur­ing his swim in the James.

“I just re­ally be­lieve that the Lord just wasn’t tak­ing him yet, and it was meant for him to col­lapse and die right in front of that am­bu­lance so we can pull this mir­a­cle off to bring other peo­ple to faith,” she said.

“And Alexa’s al­ready de­cided when he gets out of here, we’re go­ing to drive out to that spot in Jamestown, and to­gether — as a fam­ily — walk those last 20 me­ters.”

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