logo for print

Off-duty firefighter helps revive man who had a heart attack during a marathon

Dallas Fire-Rescue Lt. Martin Leos was nearing Mile 9 when he heard people calling for help


By Claire Z. Cardona
The Dallas Morning News

DALLAS — A runner who had a heart attack Sunday during the BMW Dallas Marathon set off another race as several nearby first responders hurried to save his life.

Dallas Fire-Rescue Lt. Martin Leos was nearing Mile 9 when he heard people calling for help.

Dallas Fire-Rescue Lt. Martin Leos performed CPR on a fellow marathon runner. (Photo/ Dallas Fire-Rescue)
Dallas Fire-Rescue Lt. Martin Leos performed CPR on a fellow marathon runner. (Photo/ Dallas Fire-Rescue)

About 20 yards ahead of him, another runner was on the concrete, barely breathing with no pulse.

Leos began chest compressions, with help from a certified physical trainer. 

Southern Methodist University Officer Josh Benavides was also nearby, working off-duty on the marathon route, when he heard calls for help, said Lt. Brian Kelly of the university's police department. 

Benavides, an Army medic who had served in Afghanistan, took over the chest compressions until Dallas Fire-Rescue arrived, he said.  

"He was a hero that day," Kelly said in an email.

Dallas police Lt. Alex Eastman was providing security for the marathon when an officer called for an ambulance over the radio. Eastman drove a few blocks to where people were giving the man CPR, police said. 

Eastman, a doctor and reserve officer with the department for almost 14 years, said he knew the runner was dead when he went up to him. 

Dallas Fire-Rescue's Rescue 95 unit, which was positioned just two blocks away for the marathon, arrived to help revive the man using an automated external defibrillator before the runner was taken to the hospital.

"In my 16 years as a doctor, I have never seen anyone come back like that," Eastman told police.

When the man began to talk again, Eastman said the runner was "incredibly grateful and thankful to have a second chance at life."

The man was identified as Dwayne Pickens by WFAA-TV (Channel 8). He told the station all he remembers was struggling to catch his breath while running, then waking up in a room surrounded by people.

He was hospitalized, and Eastman has visited him multiple times, police said.

"I was going out to work that day on the SWAT team, and I ended up helping save someone," he told police. "I guess I was just at the right place at the right time."

As a trauma surgeon and member of the Police Department's SWAT team, it's Eastman's job to jump into action in situations like Sunday's.

Eastman began working with the tactical team in 2004 and was one of the first doctors in the nation to become a trained member of a SWAT team.

In February 2006, Eastman was on scene when four Dallas SWAT officers were shot while helping the DEA serve federal drug warrants. He began pulling officers to safety and tending to their wounds with other team members while the bullets kept flying. 

All of the officers recovered.

In October 2007, Eastman, along with Dr. Jeff Metzger, helped save Lt. Carlton Marshall after he was shot in the neck during a raid.

When an "officer down" call went out over police radios, Eastman and Metzger, also a member of the SWAT team, headed toward the side of the house and met a group of officers who were dragging the critically injured lieutenant.

Metzger held Marshall's head while Eastman cut a hole in his neck, allowing him to breath. He survived but was temporarily paralyzed and retired a few years later.

Eastman is the medical director and chief at Parkland's Rees-Jones Trauma Center and an assistant professor specializing in surgery at UT Southwestern Medical Center Dallas, according to the hospital's directory.

Leos, who was active in Sunday's marathon rescue, has given CPR to a runner before. In 2008, he came across a 24-year-old runner having a heart attack ?and administered CPR.

That runner was taken to a hospital, and Leos returned to his race, only to learn after he finished that she had died.

Dallas Fire-Rescue spokesman Jason Evans, who talked to Leos on Monday, said that incident was on his mind when he went to help the marathon runner over the weekend. 

"He expressed to me how he had a hard time dealing with that when it happened," Evans said. "That was definitely on his mind when this man went down and he had to render aid."

In both cases, Leos went on to finish the race. 

This time, though, he had a longer way to go until the finish time — a longer wait to find out what happened to the patient.

"He still had a good distance to go while it was still weighing on his heart," Evans said. 

"This is what we do. It's not to say that no every day citizen can't jump down when they see someone in need and do the right thing," he said. "You don't need a uniform to be a hero. No one in the world knew he was a firefighter when it happened."

Copyright 2017 The Dallas Morning News

Recommended for you

Join the discussion

Copyright © 2018 FireRescue1.com. All rights reserved.