Although Emory Heart Center cardiologist Anna Kalynych, MD, and FBI agent John Cable had a couple of things in common -- including a love of running and yearly participation in the Peachtree Road Race -- they had never met before July 4, 2003. On that day, during last year's Peachtree, their paths crossed unexpectedly and dramatically when Cable's heart stopped beating and Dr. Kalynych raced to save his life.
John Cable has no memory of running in his 15th Peachtree Road Race. But Dr. Kalynych remembers the event in detail. She recalls how she saw a man collapse at 10th and Peachtree Street. He had suffered a heart attack.
"Grady Emergency medical personnel on bikes were nearby and tried to shock this fibrillating heart back into normal rhythm -- but it didn't work," she says. "I assisted in performing CPR and kept at it for ten minutes until an ambulance arrived."
Dr. Kalynych called the Emory Crawford Long Hospital ( ECLH) catheterization team from the scene and then accompanied Cable in the ambulance to ECLH. At the hospital, she immediately performed emergency cardiac catheterization. John, who was initially in a coma, was stabilized on medicines for several days and then had stents (tiny wire mesh tubes used to prop arteries open after angioplasty clears them of plaque) placed once he regained consciousness.
"I only remember waking up in the hospital after being there for three days," John Cable explains. "I couldn't believe this had happened to me. I was in good shape and had just had a normal stress test a few weeks before. There's no history of heart disease in my family, either."
Looking back, however, he realized there had been subtle signs of heart trouble he had ignored -- times when his regular workouts left him inexplicably winded and tired, for example.
Today, Cable, now 57 and retired from the FBI, has six stents and he's taking medication to keep his cholesterol level at a healthy level. Always athletic, he works out daily in the gym and runs several miles a day. "I'm convinced that being in shape helped me recover from my heart attack quickly," he notes. "And I now know how important it is to pay attention to any warning signs."
Dr. Kalynych will be running her 8th Peachtree this July 4th and she says while the vast majority of runners will have a festive and safe time participating in the race, she won't be surprised if someone experiences a heart event.
Last October, John Cable participated in a 15K race in Peachtree City, where he lives, and he had planned on running alongside Dr. Kalynych in this year's Peachtree Road Race. But after undergoing a recent catheterization as part of a screening following an abnormal stress test, John decided to skip this year's race. "I had good results from my cath and I'm doing well, but my training schedule was thrown off and I need to let my leg heal a bit from where they put in the wire to do the test," he notes.
But, he adds, he will be Dr. Kalynych's biggest fan as she runs Peachtree.
"She gave up finishing the race to help me and to go with me to the hospital with me. I think her dedication to helping people and her enormous integrity is impressive and awesome," Cable says, "and the FBI agrees. "
Dr. Kalynych will be one of more than 1,100 Emory Healthcare employees -- about 300 more than last year -- who are participating in this year's Peachtree Road race. The Emory runners work in all components of Emory Healthcare, including Emory University Hospital, Emory Crawford Long Hospital, The Emory Clinic, Emory Children's Center, Wesley Woods Hospital, Emory-Adventist Hospital and EHCA, LLC.
For more than a decade, Emory HealthCare has been a sponsor of the Peachtree Road Race. Emory physicians, nurses and other staff volunteers will help provide free emergency health services to race participants.