Roger Heil doesn’t remember this past Valentine’s Day. Now before you roll your eyes, you should know that Heil, who works at Mayo and who is married, also doesn’t remember the day before Valentine’s Day, or about 10 days after it. He suffered a heart attack, which also led to a concussion and brain injury, while out for a run on Feb. 14. “I must have fallen over backward,” Heil tells us, “because I cracked my head open and got a brain concussion, too.” That led to the memory loss.
Based on what members of his running group have told him, and what was reported by the Rochester Post-Bulletin, Heil says he was several miles into a Valentine’s Day morning run when his heart suddenly stopped beating. Fortunately, his running group includes fellow Mayo Clinic staffers like Lynn Saari and Jeffrey Pasternak, M.D., who immediately began performing CPR. The Rochester Police Department soon arrived with an automated external defibrillator (AED) that was used to revive Heil. After that, he spent a week or so in the intensive care unit (another thing he doesn’t remember) before receiving an implantable cardioverter defibrillator to help regulate his heart.
Heil continues to work with therapists in Mayo’s Cardiac Rehab program to get back to where he left off. His goal, he says, is to make his comeback in time to participate in the half-marathon event at Mayo Clinic’s Healthy Human Race, as part of the Sesquicentennial. ”I’ve had 36 sessions in cardiac rehab, and I have six left,” he says. “I’m up to running seven miles. Hopefully by the time of the race, I’ll be able to get back to that 13.1-mile mark.” We have little doubt, given what he says about those helping to make it happen, including his own co-workers on the Saint Marys Campus of Mayo Clinic Hospital in Rochester. “I cannot say enough good things about the people who are taking care of me,” he says.
If you’re so inclined, you can join Heil at the Mayo Clinic Healthy Human Race half-marathon on Sunday, Aug. 24. If you’re not up for a half-marathon, don’t worry. The “family-friendly” weekend of fun also includes a Health & Wellness Expo, a Kids’ Run, a 5K, a half-marathon relay race, and a 1-mile Healthy Human Walk. There will also be appearances by “world-renown experts and special guest speakers,” such as eight-time Olympic medalist Apolo Ohno. All proceeds will help support the Mayo Clinic 150th Patient Care Fund.
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