Gresham firefighter saves Boston Marathon runner he knows

Human Interest

Nick Haney helped save Meghan Roth during the 2021 Boston Marathon

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Gresham Firefighter Nick Haney said he started his day like he normally would for a race. This past Monday, October 11, he was running his second Boston Marathon. But this marathon would be unlike any of the other dozen he’s done.

At the 7.5 mile mark, he saw a woman directing runners to go around her. As he approached closer he could see a woman on the ground with 2 people helping her. Haney, who is also a paramedic, jumped in to help give her CPR.

“I look down and the woman is blue in the face,” Haney told KOIN 6 News. “There was a woman who started CPR and there was a gentleman holding her airway open. So I knelt down, felt for a pulse.”

Gresham Firefighter Nick Haney was 7.5 miles into the Boston marathon where he came across bystanders performing CPR on a runner in cardiac arrest. Nick immediately began assisting with cpr along with a doctor and physicians assistant who later showed up.

Gresham Firefighters tweet

That’s when he realized he knew the downed runner — Meghan Roth — from other races and mutual friends. Another man stopped to help, a physician’s assistant Haney knew, and they did compressions on Roth until the race paramedics arrived and took her by ambulance to an area hospital.

GoFundMe: Meghan Roth

Roth underwent a medical procedure and was able to fly home to Minnesota Friday night, Haney said.

Those are the basics. But there is much more to the story.

Below is Nick Haney’s story, in his own words.

Gresham Firefighter Nick Haney helped save Meghan Roth during the 2021 Boston Marathon (KOIN)

I started my day like I normally would for any race. So, I’m getting around Mile 7 and 8 and I see this lady directing runners to go around her. I looked just past her and I can see that there’s somebody down and 2 people are helping that person. I just figured they were cramping or something had happened because it was a humid day and there were already people on the side either walking or stretching out cramps. As I get closer I take a closer look and I realize they’re actually doing CPR on her. So I just kind of naturally come up and see what I can do to help and I look down and the woman is blue in the face, taking agonal respirations. There was a woman who started CPR and there was a gentleman holding her airway open. So I knelt down, felt for a pulse — thought I felt one but was probably just feeling my own with the adrenaline and everything, 7 and a half miles into a race — and I felt for a pulse again and didn’t feel a pulse at that point. So I had the woman continue to do compressions and I had that gentleman continue to hold her airway open.

Somewhere around that time a doctor came up behind me and he came in to assist as well. He wanted to do a precordial thump so he did that and after he did that I took over compressions and did a round of compressions and while I was doing CPR, another gentleman who is a physician’s assistant in Las Vegas ER, he came up. We were teammates so I knew who he was. So Tanner and I just kind of took over and started doing our thing. Tanner and I switched out, he started doing compressions. And when I got up and kind of took a closer look at how the woman was doing, her color was starting to come back so I knew the compressions were adequate and doing what we needed them to do. And we were giving her a fighting chance.

Meghan Roth suffered a cardiac event during the 2021 Boston Marathon (GoFundMe)

While Tanner was doing his compressions, another gentleman stopped — I can’t remember who he was. I remember touching his head and saying, ‘What’s your name?’ I can’t remember what his name was — but my goal was to basically set up and have it set up so that people knew names and who they were going to follow for, who was going to take over compressions next. So after Tanner went I was going to go and then the other gentleman until the other paramedics and firefighters arrived. But right as I was getting that set up, the paramedics showed up. They took over and got things going. Yeah, Tanner and I took off and finished the race.

There’s kind of another twist to it. When I looked down at the woman, I knew her. I had met Meghan initially in 2019 at the Chicago Marathon through a mutual friend. We’re out celebrating so we ended up having dinner with her and her friend. Meghan’s a very strong runner — she qualified for the Olympic trials, she ran a 2:44 in Boston in 2019, I believe. So she went to Atlanta to compete in the Olympic trials and I happened to be down there, too, because I had some friends who were running in that, as well. So I went down to support them. And I ran into her again and talked to her in Atlanta.

And then, oddly enough, I saw her at the finish line on Sunday, the day before the race, like the pre-race festivities. I saw one of my buddies and she was talking to him, so I briefly said hello to her then. And then to run up on her, this person at mile 7-and-a-half, and realize it was Meghan.

But then at the time I couldn’t remember her name — I don’t know if it was just in the heat of everything I couldn’t remember her name. So that added another little twist to it. While the woman was still doing compressions I took Meghan’s bib off to see if there was emergency contact information on the back of it, and there wasn’t. I’m just as guilty of that, too, I didn’t fill mine out, either. I don’t think most people do.

When I finished I called our mutual friend and said, ‘Hey, I can’t remember her name. We ran into her multiple times.’ And he’s, like, ‘Oh, yeah, that’s Meghan.’ ‘Yeah, I did CPR on her at mile 7-and-a-half. I don’t know if you know any of her mutual friends or other friends that you can contact.’ So he said, ‘Yeah, I know one of her friends.’ So Patrick called her and I think she was able to contact Meghan’s family and let them know what was going on.

But to get back to your initial question, I don’t really know how to answer. Through what I do on a daily basis, work mode kicked in and at work we go on and see a lot of bad things and have to help people at their worst moments. You know, we get done with that and we go about our day.

Runners near the finish line on Boylston Street during the 125th Boston Marathon on October 11, 2021 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Malhotra/Getty Images)

In most cases we don’t get follow-ups on how people turn out, whether somebody got shot or had CPR done on them. So to be able to help Meghan the way we helped her, and then to talk to her after — I’ve been in contact with her and had several conversations with her since this happened. She’s back home in Minnesota with her family, which is great.

It’s just wild. It’s just crazy how it all came about. It’s been very difficult to put words to it. But then to turn around and finish the race, it wasn’t a thought. I don’t know if that’s the best way to describe it. But I know that just through talking with Meghan I know she would’ve said, ‘Why didn’t you finish the race?’ And for me, it didn’t even cross my mind. Stopping my race to help her didn’t cross my mind. It wasn’t even a thought. There was no question that I wasn’t going to stop to help. I think I stopped my watch for about 5 minutes and I don’t know why I stopped my watch but I was able to look back and see that I was with her for almost exactly 5 minutes and then go on and finish the race.

She’s OK. She ended up having a procedure done but she got released, I believe, yesterday (Friday) morning, flew home and got home last night. It’s awesome. Best case scenario and I’m just glad she’s home. She’s got a 9-month-old son, I believe. Just glad she’s back home with him.

I will never not write my contact information on the back (of my runner’s bib). In talking to other people as well, same thing. They’re saying, ‘Well, I know what I’m doing from now on.’ Or talking to other people they said ‘I’d have been nervous to stop and do CPR.’ And I don’t blame them for feeling that way. I think the real heroes in this whole situation are the woman and the gentleman that initially got there before I did or the other medical professionals. For them to step in to help the way they did ultimately I believe they’re the ones that saved Meghan’s life or gave her the best chance to survive.

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