‘Right place at the right time’ is one way to describe this instance where a marathon runner got a cardiac arrest with a cardiac surgeon in the vicinity.
There has been a sudden spike in cardiac arrest rates across the globe, especially during the post-pandemic phase. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in the US, more than 356,000 suffer from out-of-hospital cardiac arrests every year and almost 60% to 80% of them die before receiving any treatment in a hospital. One of those 356,000 people was lucky enough to be in the line of sight of a cardiac surgeon, who rushed to provide immediate CPR. 47-year-old marathon runner Tuan Pham woke up that morning with the goal of running the 39th Long Beach Half Marathon with his teenage son. Little did he know that two miles short of the finishing line, he would collapse due to a cardiac arrest. According to ABC7, Pham was in great shape, having run six half marathons in the last three years and was regular with his workouts.
As reported by Long Beach Post, when Pham was looking ahead and striding towards the finishing line, he collapsed face down on Ocean Boulevard due to a cardiac arrest. Luckily for him, Dr. Ryan Chiu, a cardiothoracic surgeon at Long Beach Memorial was exiting the Museum restaurant when his eyes caught sight of Pham hitting the ground. Dr. Chiu told ABC7, “I was just walking out when the marathon was being run there at Ocean Boulevard and I saw one of the runners stumble in front of me and collapse on the ground.” Chiu’s next move was to rush to Pham’s side, who was unresponsive and had no pulse. He immediately started emergency CPR and was hopeful about saving him. After getting help from an onlooker to take over the chest compressions, Chiu called his hospital to alert and assemble a team to stabilize and perform surgery on Pham. Once the ambulance arrived, Chiu sped away in his car to reach the hospital where they found Pham to be suffering from serious coronary heart disease. Dr. Chiu performed a triple bypass surgery on Pham and he is now hale and hearty.
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The miraculous coincidence saved Pham’s life who shared that both his parents died in their 50s due to heart disease. However, he was always under the impression that working out, having a healthy lifestyle and getting regular physicals done would save him from the same fate. He said, “Both my parents died from heart disease. But I have physicals all the time and all the numbers were fine, so I had no idea.” Talking about fate, both Pham and Chiu believe it was “divine intervention” for the two to be in the right place at the right time. Pham shared that he’s not one into spirituality but thinks that his parents saved him. He said, “I think my parents saved me. Just somehow, they put him [Chiu] there to be there for me.” Talking about the miraculous coincidence, he added, “I can’t believe the one guy, the first guy, to see me fall, to show up and give me help, was a cardiac surgeon. What are the odds?”
Chiu’s destiny was also playing in favor of Pham. He shared that he had almost left the restaurant a few minutes earlier but his friend asked him to stay a little longer to enjoy the ocean’s view. He said, “I shudder to think that if we had left a little bit earlier I would’ve never seen him go down.” While destiny and coincidences cannot speak for themselves, it’s evident that something was working right in favor of Pham who said that all he remembers is “waking up in the hospital” and “feeling good.” He is embracing this another chance at life: "I have been texting all my friends. I get to spend more time with everybody. Time is all that matters," he told KCAL News. The survivor also shared that his never-give-up attitude is already motivating him to return next year and finish the pending “last two miles.”