Superhero Sauni ‘is super fast’ and saved Bermudian’s life
A Bermudian surgeon remains astonished by his luck at taking to the streets of New York tomorrow in the city’s world-renowned annual marathon.
If chance had not stacked the deck “remarkably” in his favour, John Harvey would have died three years ago, just ahead of braving the same epic run.
Dr Harvey was marathon training through Central Park in the autumn of 2019, and had just headed on after kissing his wife, Helena, at the 15-mile mark when he was struck down by what should have been a fatal heart attack.
But fate intervened when a fellow physician, Mount Sinai anaesthesiologist Sauni Perera, also out marathon training and running not far behind, acted quickly to save his life.
Now the two, who became fast friends after Dr Harvey’s recovery from open heart surgery, will run together in the world’s biggest marathon — honouring their special bond, but also running in tribute to their mothers.
In an interview for NBC alongside Dr Perera, Dr Harvey told The Today Show: “I consider myself a lucky person — but this was remarkable.”
Fit and healthy and in his late 40s, Dr Harvey was oblivious to his ticking time-bomb in the form of a congenital heart condition.
As his wife headed to wait at the finish line, where Dr Harvey never arrived, her husband was stretched out on the ground being brought back to life with a defibrillator.
Dr Harvey recalled: “My next memory was opening my eyes and looking straight up at the sky, and a circle of people looking down at me looking really excited and happy.”
He had been resuscitated after the abrupt and typically lethal variety of heart attack known as sudden cardiac arrest.
Dr Perera said she was out for a run when “I came upon a runner who was collapsed on the side of the running path”.
She attended to the fallen man, alerting a police officer who arrived with the life-saving machine.
When Dr Perera delivered the shock, she said, “his hand landed on his chest”.
“I saw a wedding ring. I immediately thought, this guy is married — he probably has kids.”
Once Dr Harvey was back on his feet after surgery, he set about tracking down the person who saved his life.
Dr Perera said of the subsequent phone call: “It was maybe as special for me as it was for him.”
Dr Harvey added: “This was the beginning of a really lovely friendship.
“Sauni is very much like a superhero. She is super fast, and she saves lives.”
He likened his experience to a lottery win.
“Sauni did an amazing thing that day. And she saved my life. What more can I say?
“I’m still here for my family, my patients — and now we have a wonderful friendship as well.”
Dr Perera said she had not meant to run that course on that particular day, but had decided to keep going for a few extra miles because she had quit early the day before.
“It brought me there,” she said.
Tomorrow’s 26.2-mile marathon marks more than an ongoing bond as friends.
A month ago, Dr Perera’s mother had luck of her own when quick hospital treatment was at hand after her stroke.
Dr Harvey is raising money for the Susan G. Komen breast cancer charity in honour of his “lifelong greatest supporter”, his mother Susan Harvey, who died this year from the illness.
“I know she would want to be here at the race for me this year,” he said. “But I am raising money for this great charity.”
Asked if he was ready for the big race, Dr Harvey said: “I feel great.”