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LA Marathon Cardiac Arrest Survivor Thanks First Responders, Hospital Medical Team

From left: Dr. Paul Vespa (Professor of neurology and neurosurgery and director of UCLA's Neurointensive Care Unit, Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center),  Jode Lebeda,Mike Westgate (emergency department nurse, Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center), Lauren Yamamoto (intensive care unit nurse, Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center), and Dr. Kateri Roessler-Henderson (emergency medicine resident, Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center).
From left: Dr. Paul Vespa (Professor of neurology and neurosurgery and director of UCLA’s Neurointensive Care Unit, Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center), Jode Lebeda,Mike Westgate (emergency department nurse, Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center), Lauren Yamamoto (intensive care unit nurse, Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center), and Dr. Kateri Roessler-Henderson (emergency medicine resident, Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center).

LA Marathon runner Jode Lebeda was reunited on Monday with firefighters, paramedics, doctors, and nurses who cared for him after he collapsed during the 2014 LA Marathon.

Lebeda was running the 2014 ASICS LA Marathon on March 9, when at Mile 20, he collapsed in sudden cardiac arrest.

Marathon volunteers from the Keck School of Medicine of the University of Southern California (USC), the official medical provider of the ASICS LA Marathon, quickly reached 28-year-old Jode and began CPR, while LAFD EMTs and Firefighter/Paramedics stationed along the race course also arrived rapidly to provide Advanced Life Support measures.

While being treated on the race course, Lebeda regained strong pulses and was transported by Los Angeles Fire Department (LAFD) ambulance in critical condition to Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center in Westwood.

He was admitted to the hospital’s Neurointensive Care Unit and over the next seven days, made a remarkable recovery. He has since returned to work and has resumed his normal daily activities.

LAFD personnel and members of the UCLA and USC medical staffs were all reunited with Lebeda on Monday.

Lebeda said the sheer number of pieces that had to fall into place to enable him to survive was staggering to imagine.

“Words cannot describe the gratitude I feel for the trained volunteers and LAFD members who reacted instantly to save my life,” Lebeda said. “Additionally, the expert care I received from Dr. Vespa and the rest of the UCLA medical staff following the marathon has allowed me to be here physically, just as I was before the race.”

Lebeda said this experience had been one of those life-altering events that would forever change his perspective on all things.

“The importance of first-responders and human compassion in our society has never felt more real,” he said.

LAFD Interim Chief James Featherstone commended the quick work of the medical personnel and the LAFD members assigned to the race that day, as well as the teamwork and coordination required to turn a potential tragedy into a joyful success.

“The amazing story of Jode’s sudden collapse and subsequent full recovery is not only a tribute to the strength of his spirit, but a testament to the effectiveness of the Chain of Survival in cases of sudden cardiac arrest,” Featherstone said. “It is always a pleasure to formally introduce an individual to the people who rescued him.”

Dr. Paul Vespa, professor of neurology and neurosurgery and director of Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center’s Neurointensive Care Unit was the lead physician during Jode’s hospitalization.

“When Jode remained in a coma, we suspected he was suffering from silent seizures, which are common after cardiac arrest, so we used brain monitoring to detect the seizures, and then treated him to protect his brain,” said Dr. Vespa. “Our motto is ‘To detect and protect,” and UCLA pioneered this type of brain monitoring and is available only at specialized neurocritical care centers like ours.”

Marathons are inherently complex events, with thousands of runners, spectators and volunteers lining the 26.2 mile course.

The LAFD works closely with the ASICS LA Marathon organizers and allied public safety agencies to coordinate its medical coverage and response.

In addition to providing life-saving treatment to Lebeda, the LAFD handles dozens of race-related incidents throughout race day.

Dr. Glenn Ault of Keck Medicine of USC is the ASICS LA Marathon Medical Director and was on hand to meet Lebeda and express his gratitude for a team effort to save him and assist all participants of the annual race.

“Keck Medicine of USC is proud to partner with the LA Marathon and the multiple jurisdictions providing medical care to ensure the health and safety of race participants,” said Dr. Ault. “The heroic efforts of many culminated in an incredible outcome for Mr. Lebeda, which we can all celebrate.”

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