AKRON, Ohio — Bruised and bleeding, a dazed Tony Lindeman finally came to the realization he was lying in an Akron (Ohio) City Hospital emergency room.
“Today is the luckiest day of your life,” said a nurse attending him.
“I don’t feel very lucky,” Lindeman responded, bewildered about why he was not still running the Akron Marathon.
“When you come to understand what happened, you will,” the nurse said.
What Lindeman didn’t know at that time was that a half-hour earlier, he had dropped dead.
He felt perfectly fine when the race bell sounded at 7 a.m. Sept. 29, releasing 13,000 runners in the pre-dawn darkness that still enveloped downtown Akron.
It was his eighth marathon — third in Akron — since friends coaxed him into taking up the hobby a decade ago.
As expected, his pals passed him in the first mile as they crossed the All-America Bridge into North Hill. They were out of sight by the time he reached Tallmadge Avenue, but no matter. They were always faster in the beginning, but Lindeman’s slow-and-steady strategy would allow him to catch up down the road.
Lindeman doesn’t remember making the turn onto Schiller Avenue near the second mile marker.
But Heather Pariso will never forget.
A 34-year-old surgical nurse from Coventry Township, Pariso was running the first leg of her team relay when she saw Lindeman leave the street, run onto the sidewalk and collapse.
“I just thought he tripped on uneven pavement,” she said. “I went to him right away, but as soon as I got to him, I saw he hadn’t tripped.”
Pariso wrestled Lindeman’s prone body onto his back and saw he was no longer breathing.
Instinctively, she placed the heel of her palm in his chest and manually pumped his heart.
Other willing Samaritans, all medical professionals who were running that day, stopped to offer help. One applied mouth-to-mouth CPR. Someone called 911. Others began to pray.
Pariso and a nurse who ran to the scene from nearby Summa St. Thomas Hospital kept up the forceful, rhythmic chest compressions for several minutes until an ambulance arrived. Paramedics used a defibrillator to restart Lindeman’s heart.
“When he got onto the ambulance, I called my relay person to let them know I was on my way. I knew they’d be wondering where I was since I was way behind,” Pariso said. “I was bawling my eyes out. They asked what was wrong and I said, ‘Someone died, but he’s OK now.’”
As the ambulance made its way to Summa’s City Hospital, Ann Lindeman stood on a sidewalk wondering where her husband was.
She was registered to run a late leg of a team relay, so she had been able to see him off at the starting line with time to spare for one final cheer when he returned southbound on the All-America Bridge.
Ann Lindeman rooted as her husband’s running mates finished the bridge loop and passed by her on High Street, then waited for Tony.
As the minutes ticked by, she convinced herself she had missed him. It was early in the race and the running pack was thick, she told herself.
She checked the clock on her cell phone to see if she needed to abandon her post to catch the bus to her team relay point when she saw she had missed a call from the Akron Police Department. The police acquired her number from marathon officials off Lindeman’s emergency contact information.
“I called them back, and they said there had been an incident and that he was OK, but he’d been taken to City Hospital,” she said. Not knowing what happened, she tried to remain calm as she walked several blocks to her parked car.
At the hospital, she found her husband’s face raw and bloody from the spill, and he complained of a sore chest and aching bones throughout his body. But he was sitting up in bed and talking.