Thank You Pittsburgh!

An open letter to the city from the parents of a young man whose life was saved after he suffered cardiac arrest near the finish line of the Pittsburgh Marathon.

We are the parents of Jeffrey Whitmore, who suffered a cardiac arrest near the finish line of the Pittsburgh Marathon.

This is not the case of the weekend warrior who went beyond his limits and preparation.  Jeff has run marathons and in the four weekends prior to the race, did his 22 mile training runs.  When my cell phone rang on the morning of my 60th birthday, I figured it was him calling to say he beat his goal time (3:15) and to say happy birthday.  Instead it was an emergency room doctor telling us he had a cardiac event in the race and was in critical condition at UPMC Mercy.

We were numb on our flight from the west coast to Pittsburgh.  The first few days our concern was whether Jeff would survive, the next few was whether there would be any neurological damage and the final few were wondering what caused his cardiac arrest to occur as there were no prior indicators.

Mark Ferguson was there near the finish line to watch his son when he saw Jeff go down.  Mark went to help him up and offered water.  Seconds later he went down again, and Mark yelled “medics”.  Two medically trained bystanders rushed to his aid followed by the paramedics.  In less than 60 seconds he was receiving the care he needed to give him his best chance at survival and today he is back to work thanks to all their efforts.

There are many other people to thank for their concern, help, and prayers. The cardiac ICU and cardiac-floor nurses were wonderful, and the care they have for their patients was always evident, as was their willingness to answer any and all questions we had.  The doctors at UPMC Mercy are professional, caring, and we can’t thank them adequately enough.  We would also like to thank the media relations, “concierge”, and staff for helping us during this difficult time.  Everyone at UPMC Mercy showed compassion and understanding and went out of their way to help us.  The Pittsburgh Marathon also offered much appreciated assistance and we enjoyed meeting with them after Jeff’s release from the hospital on Mother’s Day.

Mark Bocian, Chief of the Bureau of Emergency Medical Services, said it best when he said that all the preparation they do “paid off, and that is what it is all about."  We would like to thank Dr. Ronald Roth, who is the medical director for the Pittsburgh Marathon.  His dedication, concern, professionalism, and preparation are why Jeff is alive today and has returned to health and work.  We are forever indebted to the all-star medical teams they put together for the Pittsburgh Marathon.  Since Pittsburgh is the “City of Champions”, we’d suggest the Pittsburgh Marathon medical team be added to the list as they are champions and saviors in our eyes and hearts.

Once Jeff was out of Cardiac ICU and upgraded from critical condition, we knew that we wanted to give thanks to many and hopefully influence friends, family, and others to get their CPR and AED certification.  Jeff, his sister Claire and I (his father) all are current with our certification.  Anyone one of us may find ourselves in the position to be a first responder before paramedics arrive.  Knowing what to do and how to do it can literally be the difference between life and death for a stranger or a loved one.

A dear friend lost his 17 year old son during a high school basketball game to a cardiac arrest when he could not be revived.  He took that event and created Project ADAM (Automated Defibrillators in Adam’s Memory – see   His initiative has now resulted in more than 800 schools being served in the state of Wisconsin and it has saved lives.  

There was a recent event at a Pennsylvania college where a professor suffered cardiac arrest in the cafeteria, unfortunately his outcome was not the success story that Jeff had of returning to health.   The college then put a plan in place to deal with cardiac emergencies on campus and that is often the case, it takes an unfortunate event to initiate change.  It would be very gratifying to our family, if the people who knew Jeff’s story, were motivated enough to take the time to take the course.  

Many people probably spend more time on social media sites in a month than it takes to take the CPR and AED course (a day), and social media sites don’t have the potential to save a life.  We have no doubt that if even 1% of the runners who were in the Pittsburgh half and full marathon took the course, that in the next couple years one of them would be in the situation to save a life.  In Jeff’s case, he was prepared to help others but he and we never suspected such a healthy young man as he was, would be on the receiving end.

We plan on attending next year’s Pittsburgh Marathon and helping in any way that we can as paying it forward is the least we can do.  As to whether Jeff runs another marathon, that is unknown at this time, but if he ever does run another one, there is little doubt that it will be the Pittsburgh Marathon.

Thank you again, Pittsburgh, for giving us our son back.

Scott Whitmore
Patty Wallace