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Nurse saves Utah man's life at American Fork half-marathon

Published June 22, 2013 12:10 pm

Rescue • Half-marathon runner recovering after CPR at finish line, triple bypass surgery.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Carl Gallegos felt great running a half-marathon in American Fork Canyon. That changed as he neared the finish line.

Gallegos suffered a heart attack moments after crossing the line on June 15. But he was scheduled to go home from the hospital Saturday, thanks to a stranger.

About two blocks from the end of the race, the 57-year-old had to stop for a moment and walk. He ran the final block of the American Fork Canyon Half-Marathon and 5K — meant to raise money for cancer patients — and grabbed his medal and water bottle. Then he started feeling ill.

"[A woman] asked me if I was OK and I told her 'I don't think so.' She asked if I needed an aid station and that's the last thing I remember," Gallegos said during a phone interview from Utah Valley Regional Medical Center. That woman was Lori Bertelsen, a nurse administrator from nearby American Fork Hospital, and she helped save Gallegos' life.

The next thing Gallegos remembered was Bertelsen performing cardiopulmonary resuscitation.

He was taken to American Fork Hospital and later transferred to Utah Valley, where doctors found two blockages in his arteries. He underwent triple bypass surgery on Tuesday.

Gallegos was scheduled to compete in the Top of Utah Marathon in September, but that's been nixed. He's supposed to take it easy for the next three to four months, but he plans to put his running shoes back on once he's able.

The active runner has had two previous heart attacks, but never while competing. If he hadn't been at the half-marathon, the Spanish Fork man would have been running his usual route along the river trail. Gallegos is grateful that wasn't the case. He's also grateful for Bertelsen.

"Thank goodness, she brought me back," he said. He praised the half-marathon for being well-equipped to save his life.


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