June 20 — PROVO — Carl Gallegos signed up for Saturday’s AF Canyon Half Marathon to help cancer patients pay for their treatments. But running the race actually saved his own life.
Gallegos, 57, crossed the finished line in one hour 56 minutes. He grabbed his medal and a bottle of water before telling a volunteer he needed to find the aid station. That’s the last thing he remembers before going into cardiac arrest.
“I was running fine and felt great until about two blocks from the finish line. I started feeling faint so I leaned against a car to gather my senses and then started walking,” recalled Gallegos. “I don’t remember anything after saying I needed some help.”
After Gallegos fell to the ground, Lori Bertelsen, race volunteer and nurse administrator at American Fork Hospital, performed CPR to revive him. Paramedics then transported him to the hospital where tests showed three blockages in his heart.
Gallegos said he had his first heart attack about 13 years ago and a second one five years ago. Three stents were placed in his heart to open the clogged arteries, but allergies prevent him from taking any heart medications.
The Spanish Fork resident started running as a way to get exercise and help control his heart disease. He normally goes for a 10-mile run along the river trail near his home on Saturdays.
“I would have been alone if I hadn’t been running the race on Saturday. I’m so thankful to still be here and for the service everyone gave to me,” Gallegos said.
Heart surgeons at Utah Valley Regional Medical Center performed a triple bypass on June 18 and Gallegos is recovering well. He planned to run his first marathon in September, but that will now have to wait until next year.