Marathon man’s race against time after heart attack airlift

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A DISTANCE runner continued for 12 miles after suffering a heart attack during a 53-mile ultramarathon on the banks of Loch Lomond.

Bill Heirs, 43, experienced chest pains during the remote Hoka Highland Fling run – but dismissed them as heartburn.

It was only when he arrived at Rowardennan – about 27 miles into the race – that he realised the problem was more serious and passers-by called for emergency help.

An air ambulance helicopter was on scene within 14 minutes to diagnose, treat and fly Mr Heirs to the Golden Jubilee Hospital, in Clydebank, for vital cardiac treatment.

The reduced journey time meant he arrived at the coronary care unit in time to receive life saving Primary Precutaneous Coronary Intervention (PPCI).

PPCI, also known as primary angioplasty, is an interventional procedure used for the treatment of heart attacks where the blocked artery is opened and a stent is placed, restoring normal blood flow and limiting damage to the heart.

Mr Heirs, who collapsed during the race last April, said: “I started the run as normal at Milngavie, got about 12 miles in and took on some food.

“The food I take when running normally gives me a bit of reflux in my throat so I thought I was just suffering from heart burn.

“I continued the run from Drymen to Balmaha and when I stopped to take more food and water I collapsed.”

His remote location could have reduced his chances of survival, but the quick dispatch of an air ambulance ensured he received specialist care in time.

Mr Heirs added: “The girl that made the call to send the air ambulance needs a big pat on the back.

“She made a great judgment call, as it would have taken far longer by road and I could have been in a far worse condition.”

Dr Eileen Peat, the consultant cardiologist who treated Mr Heirs, said: “The most important thing is the time it takes the paramedics to get to the hospital where we can then open the artery. This was a great example of the helicopter getting there and airlifting the patient to the Jubilee in less than 90 minutes, which is the maximum time you really want, the reason being the artery is blocked so there is no oxygen getting to the heart and that means the heart muscle can die, and that can have fatal consequences.”

Mr Heirs was able to thank Dr Peat and paramedic Rob Dalziel in person, when he met them at the helicopter base on the banks of the Clyde.

And the he is determined the incident will not stop his running. He said: “I have a race organised for next week, it’s a two loop race of 46 miles so I’ll do the first loop and then see how I feel.

“I won’t be happy until I get an event out the road.

“That might sound like a selfish attitude, only thinking of myself, but I just don’t want to lie down to this situation.

“As far as I’m concerned, I’ve got a clean bill of health, so I’m taking it like I’m invincible again.”

The Hoka Highland Fling race – which traces a route from Milgavie to Tyndrum in Stirlingshire – runs a total distance of 53 miles.

A total of 320 runners completed last year’s race, but 58 people who started the course – including Mr Heirs – did not finish.