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Doctor running half marathon saves 2 runners who went into cardiac arrest: ‘A miracle’

Dr. Steven Lome had an emotional reunion with two fellow runners whose lives he helped save with CPR when they collapsed at a half marathon last month.

Dr. Steven Lome thought he was done with life-or-death situations when he crossed the finish line after helping save a fellow runner who had collapsed from a heart attack at a half marathon last month.

It turned out that only seconds after throwing his hands in the air to celebrate completing the race, he saw another runner in distress on the ground in front of him. Lome rushed to provide CPR again before administering a life-saving shock from a defibrillator that had been handed to him by a race volunteer.

Lome normally saves lives as a cardiologist in Monterey, California, but he saved two of them outside the hospital that day at the Monterey Bay Half Marathon when he happened to be running right behind them both.

He had not seen Greg Gonzales, 67, or Michael Heilemann, 56, together since the race on Nov. 13 until the three shared an emotional reunion on TODAY on Dec. 28.

"Great to see you both, you guys look great!" Lome said.

"Thank you for saving our lives!" an emotional Heilemann said.

Lome's unforgettable sequence of events began when Gonzales collapsed without warning about three miles into the race with Lome running right behind him.

"He had no pulse," Lome told NBC News correspondent Jacob Soboroff on TODAY. "He wasn’t breathing."

Lome administered chest compressions until paramedics arrived with a defibrillator and jump-started Gonzales's heart before transporting him to a nearby hospital.

Following that harrowing moment, Lome figured the only remaining drama would be finishing his race.

"I crossed the finish line, and then I heard somebody say, 'I think we need some help over here,' and I looked over to the side and there was another runner down laying on the ground," Lome said.

"You've got to be kidding me," Soboroff said.

"That’s exactly what I thought for a brief moment," Lome replied.

Only two hours after performing CPR on Gonzales, Lome was doing it again for Heilemann, who had collapsed shortly after finishing the race.

"He had a head wound, completely unresponsive, not breathing, no pulse," Lome said. "So I decided, OK, let’s do it again.”

A race volunteer rushed to Heilemann's side with a defibrillator within minutes, and Lome used it to deliver a shock to Heilemann's heart that saved him.

Before their reunion with Lome, Heilemann and Gonzales shared an emotional meeting themselves. The two survivors had never met, but they held back tears when they shared a hug for the first time on TODAY.

"So good to see you, I’m so glad you’re doing well," Heilemann said.

"We’re alive!" a grateful Gonzales said. "We made it!"

(From left) Greg Gonzales and Michael Heilemann thanked Dr. Steven Lome in person alongside NBC News correspondent Jacob Soboroff  on TODAY after Lome helped save their lives when they went into cardiac arrest at a half marathon last month.
(From left) Greg Gonzales and Michael Heilemann thanked Dr. Steven Lome in person alongside NBC News correspondent Jacob Soboroff on TODAY after Lome helped save their lives when they went into cardiac arrest at a half marathon last month.TODAY

The two then cherished their reunion with Lome after he gave them what Gonzales called a "second chance at life."

"This is a gift," Heilemann said. "It feels like crossing the finish line."

Both of the runners would have died if Lome had not come to their aid.

"You can essentially think of it that way," Lome said. "Without that intervention, yes, it would have been fatal."

"It’s giving me a second chance with my boys, that’s been the hardest," an emotional Gonzales said.

Gonzales and Heilemann met for the first time on TODAY after both suffered cardiac arrest and were saved by Dr. Lome at a race last month.
Gonzales and Heilemann met for the first time on TODAY after both suffered cardiac arrest and were saved by Dr. Lome at a race last month.

Gonzales called it a "total miracle" that the two survived.

All three of them are now planning to run the Monterey Bay Half Marathon again together next year.

Lome even gave Heilemann his own race medal for finishing this year's race when Lome caught up with him in the hospital afterward. Heilemann then returned the favor during the reunion on TODAY with a new replacement medal for Lome.

Lome is hoping the story will encourage others to learn hands-only CPR and do their part to prevent heart attacks by exercising and maintaining a healthy diet.

“I think the moral of the story is that everyone ought to learn CPR and be prepared to use it — that’s the bridge to the defibrillator, and it worked in both of these cases,” the race's medical director, John Ellison, told the Monterey Herald after the half marathon.

Heilemann and Gonzales are already walking multiple miles per day in anticipation of next year's race after Lome gave them a second chance at life.

"The perfect person, at the perfect time, in the perfect place," Heilemann said.