KENNETT SQUARE >> At 60 years old, Shawn Stevens was nearing the finish line of the Kennett Square Mushroom Cap Half Marathon on Saturday, and he was about to do it in under two hours. The 13.1-mile race included several grueling uphill challenges that tested even seasoned runners.
But as he crossed over the finish line, Stevens collapsed, going into cardiac arrest. Several bystanders immediately began giving Stevens CPR. Kennett Square resident Dr. Ricky Haug, the volunteer lead on-site physician, responded immediately. He was joined by another physician.
When Haug took over, Stevens was lying on the ground, motionless. Haug said he wasn’t breathing and had no pulse.
“I did CPR, and they put him on a defibrillator to shock him, to hopefully get a pulse back,” Haug said. “It was lucky CPR was started early, because the chest compressions pushed the blood through (the body), to basically start his heart. I needed to get the blood flowing so he didn’t lose oxygen and become brain dead.”
Technically, Stevens was dead on the ground of the Kennett football field. Scores of people gathered around Stevens and formed a circle, some praying out loud. But Haug continued with aggressive CPR, and then using the automated external defibrillator in an attempt to bring him back to life.
“The defibrillator gives electricity to the heart, and shocked it,” Haug said. “But his pulse was still not responding on his own.”
So Haug and others continued aggressive CPR. Within minutes, Stevens was breathing, but very shallow. Another shot from the defibrillator, and his heart was back by the time Kennett EMTs arrived.
“My adrenaline was really pumping,” Haug said. “It was scary for all of us. Afterward, you really think about how scary it really was.”
Stevens was taken to Chester County Hospital. An ambulance was not stationed at the stadium because race officials decided it was easier for the ambulance to be stationed in the borough rather than navigating out of the stadium.
“The foresight of Kennett EMS to provide Dr. Haug with the AED before race start was critical,” said Dave Berger, co-race director. “It was hard to witness what happened with Shawn. I feel the outcome could not be any better though. Whether that ambulance was parked at the finish line or outside the stadium, Shawn Stevens is alive.”
Stevens, an avid runner, has made a complete recovery thanks to the quick response of medical personnel. In a letter to Berger, he said he is even looking forward to running next year’s half-marathon.
“I feel lucky to be here at that point in time when there was so much professional help to revive me,” Stevens said. “The medical staff has informed me of a condition of which I was not aware and should soon have surgery to repair the condition.”
Stevens said he wishes he could have participated in the post-run ceremonies at the Kennett football stadium. His daughter helped to retrieve his belongings and to pick up his car at the Kennett YMCA pool parking lot.
Stevens said he is looking forward to running again.
The temperature at the start of the race was cool, but quickly warmed up. Many runners dropped shirts and sweaters along the road. These have been collected and will be donated to charity.
About 750 runners paid an average of $80 to participate in the first annual half marathon, which benefits the Garage Community Youth Center in Kennett Square, and Family Promise of southern Chester County.
Coatesville at one time staged a half marathon, but many runners said the course was far too challenging due to all of the hills.