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Values in Action

Lynne HarkeyLynne Harkey was at mile 20 in the Chevron Houston Marathon and making good time when she noticed a man collapsed on the ground.

Harkey, a College Station emergency room nurse, stopped running and went to work. The man had suffered a heart attack. He wasn't breathing and had no pulse.

Within minutes, Harkey and a makeshift team of emergency responders had the man resuscitated and on his way to the hospital.

Harkey, 43, then finished the race.

That's the story Tony Pfitzer, chief executive of St. Joseph Regional Health System, told before presenting Harkey with the Values in Action Award Monday at St. Joseph's Emergency Center in College Station.

Harkey, the daytime emergency room leader at the newly opened center, was taken by surprise when she went straight from a patient's room to the ER's lobby, where friends and family were waiting to see her accept the award.

St. Joseph officials said the Values in Action award is given to staff members who demonstrate extraordinary acts while outside their typical place of work.

College Station Mayor Ben White presented Harkey the award and said he wasn't surprised when he heard the marathon story. Harkey went beyond the call of duty when his wife was ill in the hospital last spring and has since been considered a "part of the family," he said.

"She's a very giving person," White said. "We saw that when she interacted with my wife."

Harkey said while she's honored her friends and co-workers took the time to recognize her kindness, she doesn't consider herself a hero.

"I know any of y'all would have stopped and done the same thing," she said.

Saving someone's life during a marathon was one of the last things she would have expected, Harkey said. But that didn't stop her from instinctively reacting.

"I looked over and there was a young man on the ground getting CPR," she recalled. "He looked gray."

Harkey stopped her race to lend a hand to the Houston emergency workers already attending to the man. Time, places and mile markers no longer mattered at that point, she said.

Emergency personnel told her the man had suffered a heart attack and didn't have a pulse. Harkey said she knew she had to work quickly if she was going to save the man and immediately took control of the situation.

Admitting she became a bit "bossy," Harkey said she rapidly began divvying out directions to the medical workers on hand.

"When you're an ER nurse, everything is fast and down to the minutes," she said. "Runners were running by and it was pretty chaotic."

Even though she had just run 20 miles, she said it wasn't hard for her to focus on the task at hand. In addition to working with heart attack patients on a nearly daily basis, Harkey has been running long distances for years. She said her mind and body are accustomed to running up to 50 miles at a time.

Using her medical knowledge and experience and an automated external defibrillator, Harkey was able to revive the man. Once he was resuscitated, emergency personnel transported him to a Houston hospital for further treatment.

Finishing the marathon was somewhat challenging, Harkey said, because all she could think about what was would happen to the man. Still, she finished the race in four hours and 15 minutes, a respectable time for a marathon -- even without an unscheduled stop.

She never learned the man's name or age and hasn't been able to get an update on his condition.

Harkey checked the next day and said that no deaths were reported from the marathon, leading her to believe the man survived the heart attack.

"I would love to see how he did," she said.

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