Todd Rains of Wadsworth in northeastern Ohio said that after he went into cardiac arrest during the Cleveland Triathlon, two doctors also participating in the race helped ensure that he would live to celebrate the holidays this year with his wife and three young daughters.
“I get to be a Christmas miracle,” the 44-year-old Wadsworth told The Akron Beacon Journal, “God has a plan and they are part of it. They are my angels”
Rains had never competed in one of the grueling events until a friend encouraged him to give it a try.
The idea appealed to the self-employed salesman, who said he was scared into hiring a personal trainer and getting physically active a couple years ago after two people he knows suffered heart attacks in their 40s.
In the months of training leading up to the Aug. 4 triathlon, Rains said he occasionally felt slight discomfort in his chest but attributed it to part of the process.
“You worked out hard, it’s supposed to hurt” he said he thought.
Even so, his wife, Kelly, urged him to get a physical about a month before the big event. He was given a clean bill of health.
“I was in the best shape of my life,” Rains said. “I felt fine”
On race day, Rains smiled confidently at his wife and 11-year-old daughter, his eldest, after he stripped off his wet suit following the event’s 0.4-mile swim and grabbed his bike for the next leg of the race, a 16-mile ride.
The two cheered and waved when Rains pedaled past them about 20 minutes later for the first loop of the bike ride along Cleveland’s Shoreway and waited for him to pass by again.
He never came back.
Rains had gone into cardiac arrest, collapsing in the street.
Dr. Humberto Choi, a pulmonary and critical care medicine specialist at the Cleveland Clinic, also was racing in the event and was nearing the end of the second loop of the bike portion when he saw Rains lying in the road with people surrounding him.
Choi jumped off his bike and saw Rains was turning blue and gasping for air. His eyes were dilated and he had no pulse.
Choi immediately began performing chest compressions as one bystander helped him keep rhythm and another administered mouth-to-mouth.
Within minutes, Dr. Melani Sherman, an Akron emergency room doctor also competing in the race, came upon the scene and stopped to help, taking turns with Choi to administer chest compressions for about 15 minutes until an ambulance arrived.
Choi said he didn’t think Rains was going to make it.
“With our chest compressions, he would have a pulse maybe for a second and then go back into cardiac arrest,” Choi said. “I thought he passed”
Meanwhile Rains’ wife knew something was wrong when her husband failed to bike past her again. She found out through race officials that he was in the hospital and paramedics had shocked his heart back into rhythm.
Tests later showed at least three of Rains’ major coronary arteries were severely blocked and had suffered three mini strokes.
He underwent successful quintuple bypass surgery at Summa Akron City Hospital on Aug. 19. And despite a few setbacks, he recently completed cardiac rehabilitation and is expected to make a full recovery.
His doctors partially credit the expert CPR performed on him immediately after his heart stopped beating for saving his life.
Rains has spent time with both Choi and Sherman since and thanked them for helping him live to see his daughters grow up.
Choi and Sherman joined Rains and his family at their annual holiday gathering this past weekend to celebrate a year none of them will ever forget.
“This is by far our best Christmas ever,” Rains said. “Every once in a while, I have to pinch myself. I’m here”