Cooper River Bridge Run cardiac arrest survivor considers possible return

Will Pearce had nearly finished the 2017 Cooper River Bridge Run when the 31-year-old went into sudden cardiac arrest (WCIV).jpg

Healthy 31-year-olds shouldn’t experience “sudden death” or cardiac arrest, according to doctors.

Still, that’s exactly what happened to Will Pearce during the 2017 Cooper River Bridge Run.

“The race started, and everything was fine,” Pearce recalled. “My mom said I was running a little faster than she was. Next thing I know I woke up four days later in the hospital.”

Pearce had nearly completed the race when he collapsed.

“The heart is beating so rapidly it doesn’t fill and eject blood so the blood pressure falls very low,” said Dr. Thomas Di Salvo, the Director of Cardiology at MUSC and Pearce’s doctor. “It is not able to profuse the brain and patients lose consciousness as a result.”

Dr. Di Salvo explained that what happened to Pearce was nothing short of rare. Pearce was otherwise healthy and had no signs of any heart problems.

Pearce was defibrillated twice on the race route and taken to MUSC where his body temperature was cooled over a period of several days.

Scans of his heart were taken to figure out what happened.

Doctors determined that a small amount of inflammation in one of the walls of his heart was the cause.

“I was 31 years old and that was the last thing I was expecting that to be,” said Pearce.

Pearce didn’t remember the race, only the picture he took of the starting line.

“That's the last concrete memory I had,” he said.

Soon, he learned just how lucky he was.

“They gave me a four percent chance of survival,” he said. “Very low survival, right? They said if it hadn’t happened here at the bridge run I wouldn't be speaking with you right now so I’m extremely lucky.”

He even has a permanent reminder.

“I have my defibrillator, and I named him Cooper after the bridge run that makes it a little more personal,” he said.

He credits paramedics with his life and is incredibly thankful for their quick action one year ago.

“The worst memory I ever had happened at the best time,” Pearce said. “It's all about timing.”

He still has his race bib. It’s what was on the table next to him when he woke up in the hospital. What’s missing is the emergency contact information he never filled out before the race last year.

Luckily, paramedics were close and two groups of people he knew saw him collapse. He hopes that serves a testament to other runners to fill out their race bibs with emergency contact information.

Pearce returned to the race route this year, not to run but to watch.

He stood on the catwalk to look out over the runners.

A new outlook on life and a new chance to tell his story.

Maybe even a new desire to go for it again.

“It's going to take some time. Justin Bieber “Never say never.” So I’m hoping I’ll get back up there and make it work. Hopefully I’ll do it with a big group of friends and family so we can get over it and we beat you.”

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