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A marathon story with a happy ending

Cardiac arrest victim and LA Marathon runner Jode Lebeda with Linda Coy and Stan LeMelle
Cardiac arrest victim and LA Marathon runner Jode Lebeda with Linda Coy and Stan LeMelle
UCLA Health System

Today’s Boston Marathon attracted major media attention because it was held one year after the tragic bombing incident. On a much smaller scale, and completely different circumstances, an incident occurred during the 2014 Los Angeles ICS Marathon, which took place on March 15. On Mile 20, 28-year-old Jode Lebeda collapsed in cardiac arrest. Marathon medical volunteers affiliated with USC promptly reached Jode and began CPR; LAFD EMTs and Firefighter/Paramedics stationed along the race course also promptly appeared at the scene to provide Advanced Life Support measures. He was transported by a LAFD ambulance to UCLA Ronald Reagan Medical Center where he was admitted to the hospital’s Neurointesive Care Unit. Over the next seven days, Jode made a remarkable recovery. He has since returned to work and has resumed his normal daily activities. Jode is eager to share his story and reunite with all who helped with his recovery.

Coincident with the Boston Marathon, a ceremony was held this morning at Los Angeles Fire Department Station 3, 108 N. Fremont Ave., LA 90012. Jode reunited with the firefighters, paramedics, doctors and nurses who cared for him at his time of need: Los Angeles Fire Department personnel, members of the UCLA and USC medical staffs, and LA ASICS Marathon representatives.

When paramedics notified Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center that Jode had collapsed while running the Los Angeles Marathon, the UCLA emergency physicians and nurses were placed on special alert. When Jode suffered a cardiac arrest, he collapsed to ground, and needed immediate CPR and automatic defibrillation. His heartbeat was restored; however, he remained unconscious and unable to wake up. Three minutes later, the ambulance arrived, and the UCLA team rushed to assess Jode’s status and stabilize him. Upon arrival at the UCLA Emergency Department, he was not breathing well and required a ventilator.

His temperature was extremely high, exceeding 102° Fahrenheit; the emergency department staff initiated cooling measures by infusing cold fluids into his veins in order to prevent further damage. The team next performed an array of tests to discover what had caused his heart to cease beating. A brain CT scan and a chest X-ray found no abnormalities; however, he was comatose.

Jode was admitted UCLA’s Neuro-intensive care unit under the care of Director Dr. Paul Vespa. Because Jode’s cardiac arrest and presumed injury to brain due to a lack of oxygen, Dr. Vespa induced therapeutic hypothermia, which lowered his temperature to 91° Fahrenheit by active cooling using a specialized piece of equipment. The cooling helped to protect his brain from further injury. Intensive monitoring revealed that Jode was experiencing silent seizures; therefore, he was treated with high dose anti-seizure medications to further protect his brain. UCLA notes that this specialized care, from the emergency department to the Neuro-intensive care unit is available at only a small number of medical centers in the nation.

The cooling measures were continued for many days; following this treatment, Jode was gradually brought back to consciousness over a seven day period. Jode made a full recovery and was joking with his physicians and nurses by the time he left the ICU; he was subsequently released from the hospital.

The members of the UCLA medical team who cared for Jode Ledeba and were present at the April 21 event are:

  • Dr. Paul Vespa, professor of neurology and neurosurgery and director of UCLA's Neurointensive Care Unit, Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center
  • Lauren Yamamoto , intensive care unit nurse, Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center
  • Dr. Kateri Roessler-Henderson, emergency medicine resident, Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center
  • Mike Westgate, emergency department nurse, Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center