One of three people who suffered a heart attack during the 40th Cooper River Bridge Run and Walk returned home this weekend and has advice for other runners in the years to come.
In fact, 30-year-old Will Pearce of Charleston was feeling so good on Saturday — one day after surgeons implanted a subcutaneous cardiac defibrillator in his chest — that he visited the eighth annual Run for Adela on Sullivan’s Island.
He said he has one request of people who sign up for future Bridge Runs: Fill out the emergency contact information on the back of the race bib. Pearce did not but was fortunate to be local and that people knew him.
Pearce was the youngest who suffered a heart attack during the April 1 Bridge Run.
John Frederick Barden, 68, of Troy, N.C., was near the finish line when he suffered a heart attack and never regained a pulse, according to his widow, Debby Barden. The two were celebrating their 45th wedding anniversary on the day.
Barden, known as Fred, played football for Wake Forest and was a retired educator, serving as a chemistry and physics teacher, football coach and assistant principal, mostly at West Montgomery High School.
Debby Barden said her husband had been diagnosed with “a heart valve problem,” but that his doctor cleared him to do physical activity. While he was not a regular runner, he was active.
Less is known officially about a 74-year-old man who suffered a heart attack.
Three heart attacks during a single race is thought to be the most ever, but it's hard to know for sure. Bridge Run historian and archivist Cedric Jaggers doesn't track medical reports. Federal health privacy laws also make getting accurate information difficult.
Bridge Run Founder Marcus Newberry, a long-time physician, said fatal heart attacks are not common for the 10K, but he has no record of past incidents. He called this year’s incidents unusual.
“I think three (heart attacks) in one Bridge Run is unprecedented,” said Newberry. “A 10,000 meter run over the bridge is not a casual undertaking, and some people should be aware if they are at risk.”
Pearce, however, had practically no risk factors for having a heart attack. He was young, physically active and normal weight, 170 pounds on a 5-foot, 10-inch frame. Two years ago, he was diagnosed with epilepsy, but doctors told him and his mother, Janice Pearce, that the condition had nothing to do with the heart condition they also had diagnosed him with: myocarditis. The condition is usually caused by a viral infection.
Pearce had not suffered any of the usual signs of the condition, including chest pain, fatigue or abnormal heart rhythms.
Regardless, physicians told him that he was fortunate to have suffered an attack during the Bridge Run and not while he was alone. The quick response to his emergency saved his life.
After collapsing on King Street at Warren Street, police officers at the intersection immediately called for an ambulance. On way to the Medical University Hospital, emergency workers gave Pearce two electrical shocks. Once there, he was put into induced hypothermia to minimize internal damages.
In the nine days since the Bridge Run, Pearce has been showered with well wishers and prayers from locals he has known from his years of growing up in Charleston, where he attended Charleston Day School, Bishop England High School and the College of Charleston.
Pearce, who continues to recover from a grand mal seizure suffered on Nov. 28, 2016, had taken a short-term job as a host at Slightly North of Broad and also got support from staff there. He hopes to return to work as soon as possible.