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Quick thinking, Red Cross CPR training help save runner’s life


Des Moines, IA — The Drake Relays is an annual outdoor track and field meet held on the campus of Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa. The annual April event has grown to become one of the largest and most important meets in the United States.

78-year-old Gene Harding began running in the Drake’s 2009 8K Road Race, but collapsed shortly after the race started. Emily Brekke was instantly at his side, rolling him over and checking his vitals. Runners Stacy Kluesner, Heather Riley and Kirstin Stoffer were next to assist and immediately called 911. They yelled and waved to get the attention of security personnel, alerting them to send the nearby ambulance.

Deana Kerkove quickly joined the scene. Deana determined that Harding was not breathing and did not have a pulse. She began chest compressions and was helped by others to perform CPR. As she tired, Emily stepped in to relieve her and continued CPR until the paramedics arrived. Deana and Emily were both trained in Red Cross CPR and first aid.

Hospital staff credited everyone involved for saving Harding’s life. Tony Sposeto, Sr., the fire medic who was the first on the scene, said, “The assistance of the Samaritans was critical. The brain can only go four to six minutes without oxygen before death occurs.”

Gene is thankful for his “angels” whose quick thinking and actions helped save his life. Because of them, he is alive, and still running today.