“Diving intervention”: BYU student survives, recovers after suffering heart attack at marathon

Jun 6, 2024, 11:00 AM

Twenty-three-year-old Brigham Young University student Jack Walker, has been active his entire life...

Twenty-three-year-old Brigham Young University student Jack Walker, has been active his entire life. (Jack Walker)

(Jack Walker)

WALLSBURG, Utah — Twenty-three-year-old Brigham Young University student Jack Walker, has been active his entire life. Before the Utah Valley Marathon this past weekend, he had been training hard running almost a full marathon by the time it was race day. But something went wrong when he crossed the finish line.

“The very last thing I remember is crossing the finish line and then taking one more step. Then I woke up in the ICU,” Walker said.

Walker’s family was there to cheer him on. They didn’t realize he had collapsed until the crowds parted and they saw someone on the ground receiving medical attention.

“Thankfully I collapsed right in front of the medical tent, which is an act of God for sure,” said Walker.

Related: Red Cross encourages everyone to learn CPR

First responders started life-saving CPR right away. They were unable to detect a pulse for 11 minutes, so they continued CPR and defibrillation until they found a heartbeat.

“I definitely chalk it up to some serious divine intervention,” said Walker.

He said there were a series of miracles in this harrowing story. 

First, if he had been anywhere else along the route, he may not be here today.

“Like mile 18, I was in the middle of the woods by myself and would not have been able to get the care as quickly as I was able to,” said Walker.

jack walker, a byu student who suffered a heart attack at a marathon, pictured in the hospital

23-year-old Jack Walker found out he had an anomalous coronary artery. (Jack Walker)

Walker was admitted to the ER where doctors struggled to find the cause of the heart attack. After a series of tests, they found a small abnormality in his heart using a small camera. They discovered he had an anomalous coronary artery. 

It’s a condition where the right coronary artery has grown in the incorrect area. During strenuous exercise, instead of staying open, it gets pinched shut. Unbeknownst to Walker, his heart had only been operating at 66% his entire life.

The next miracle was how fast he was recovering.

Related: It’s getting hot; here’s how to stay safe in the summer heat

“They were expecting that tube to be down my throat for two to three days in the beginning. They took it out eight hours after I was admitted. I was healing just extraordinarily quickly.” said Walker

Walker was able to go home on Tuesday and is already making progress. He’s proud that he has already been able to climb a step or two.

Now he’s preparing for open heart surgery later this month where doctors hope to get his heart functioning at 100%.

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“Diving intervention”: BYU student survives, recovers after suffering heart attack at marathon