61-year-old to run Rite Aid 10K four months after quadruple bypass

BEREA, OH (WOIO) - Tearing up as they talk about the tragedy that could've been, John and Jan Durkalski remember the day John nearly died.

"If I would've went down, I would've been dead," said John.

The 61-year-old was out running Jan. 22 with his wife when he had a massive heart attack.

"Apparently I collapsed and that was it," he said.

Miraculously, Jan renewed her CPR certification the day before. Paramedics said she saved her husband's life.

"It wasn't his turn to go," Jan said. "I must of said that a million times, 'You gotta stay with me, you gotta stay with me.'"

After performing CPR for a few minutes, Jan knew she had to get her husband medical help. She got up and ran about 200 feet down the wooded trail to her neighbor's house and had them call 9-1-1.

John's an avid runner who sees his doctor at least twice a year. They never suspected anything, but believe his diabetes played a role.

After the heart attack, John spent four days in a coma and didn't leave the hospital for a month.

"I ended up having open heart surgery and a quadruple bypass," John said.

While laying in his hospital bed, John set a goal. He wanted to take part in the Rite Aid Cleveland Marathon 10K. It's a race he's done for about 25 years.

"One of the first things I've said is, I want to run the 10K for the Rite Aid," he said.

John knew it'd take a lot of hard work. First, he had to learn to walk again.

"In the beginning it was just walking on the treadmill, and then it was walking fast, and then I worked up to running on the treadmill for five minutes," John said.

Just four months after he nearly died, John's physically and emotionally preparing himself for Sunday's Rite Aid run. He feels he's lucky to be alive and he's not taking a moment for granted.

"Crossing the finish line will be quite an accomplishment," John said.

Doctors put John through a stress test this week to make sure he'll be healthy enough to run Sunday. They told him he still has a long road to full recovery, but he's made amazing strides in just four months.

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