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NYC Marathon runner meets FDNY EMTs, paramedics who saved his life

Yi-Joo Kwon met his rescuers at the FDNY’s annual “Second Chance” celebration


Korean runner Yi-Joo Kwon completed his cross-country trek of the U.S. Friday, June 25, 2010, crossing the finish line in front of the United Nation headquarters on 1st Ave. and 45th St.

Aaron Showalter for New York Daily News

By Thomas Tracy
New York Daily News

NEW YORK — With more than 220 marathons under his belt, retired Queens businessman knows a thing or two about pacing himself to reach the finish line.

But on Thursday, he’ll be racing to at Brooklyn’s Liberty Warehouse, excited to finally meet the first responders who saved his life when he suffered a heart attack during last year’s New York City Marathon.

“I just want to meet the people who helped me out,” Kwon, 78, told the Daily News on Wednesday. “I’m grateful for everything they did and I’m very excited to meet them.”

When Kwon began the New York City Marathon — his 14th — on Nov. 5 , everything was going according to schedule. He had reached the upper level of the Verrazzano Bridge and was sending selfies of himself to his daughter and friends. But he suffered a heart attack and collapsed at the top of the span’s incline.

“I was feeling good. I was ready for a good run,” he remembered. “Then I reached the peak of the bridge and I don’t recall anything after that.”

The aging marathoner could have died on the bridge, but an EMS team nearby raced over and began CPR.

With the help of a portable defibrillator, Lts. Arthur Bronshteyn and Jeanine Rodrigues, Emergency Medical Technicians Mehmet Kalendar and Zane Denoon, and paramedics Igor Negelev, Dominick Defranco and Kaylie Vines restarted his heart and raced him to Staten Island University Hospital North, where doctors put in several stents.

During major events like marathons and parades, EMS first responders station themselves along the route about every mile or so. EMTs and paramedics were in close proximity to Kwon when he collapsed and were quickly able to render aid, FDNY officials said.

Kwon woke up at the hospital, not knowing what had happened.

“I was really confused at the hospital,” he said. “I didn’t recognize anything at all.”

After a five-day hospital stay, he was released, ready to run again.

In the six months since his heart attack, he’s run in two marathons — including one in he’s planning to run in this year’s New York City Marathon, which will be his 15th.

The Second Chance event, which started in 1994, celebrates National EMS Week and reunites heart attack survivors with paramedics, emergency medical technicians and firefighters who helped save their lives. Eight patients who survived cardiac arrest, including a 12-year-old boy, will reunite with the first responders who helped save their lives.

“Since we began hosting the Second Chance ceremony, we have reconnected more than 200 patients with the outstanding men and women of EMS and Fire who saved their lives,” FDNY Commissioner Laura Kavanagh said in a statement. “New York City’s first responders respond to thousands of calls for help each day and don’t often get to meet the people they saved. This event is a reminder that positive outcomes come from training, discipline and teamwork. The work of our members makes second chances possible.”

Kwon began running marathons after diabetes nearly took his life in 1996. He uses these events, , to promote the benefits of a healthy lifestyle.

To him, running gave him his second lease on life. By racing to his aid, FDNY’s EMTs and paramedics gave him his third.

“I just want to meet them and let them know that I appreciate them,” he said.

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