Boulevard Bolt runners save man's life with CPR
By Nicole Young
Most people would say there's nothing lucky about having a heart attack, but for Germain Boer, the time and place were about as lucky as you can get.
Boer, 73, was recovering on Friday evening in the critical care unit at Saint Thomas Hospital. He had a heart attack Thursday morning while running in the Boulevard Bolt, a Thanksgiving tradition in Belle Meade.
"I think everything is going to be fine," said son Bob Boer. "He is awake and I was able to speak with him earlier. I told him some of the news reports were putting him at between 50 and 60 years old and he just laughed."
The elder Boer, a professor of accounting and director of the Owen Entrepreneurship Center at Vanderbilt University, runs the Bolt every year, his son said.
"He's very active and healthy," said Bob Boer. "He goes to the gym at Vanderbilt in the mornings and has his routine with his gym team, and he runs on the greenway.
"I just thank God this happened with 8,000 people instead of when he was off by himself somewhere."
Germain Boer was about a mile and a half into the Boulevard Bolt when he had the heart attack, said Troy Sparks, who was running the race for the first time alongside his wife, Beth.
The Sparkses are both registered nurses — he's in the operating room at StoneCrest, she's a nurse at John Overton High School.
Boer's luck began with the Sparkses being about 5 feet away when he collapsed.
"We thought he had tripped, so I went to see if he was OK and saw that he wasn't breathing," said Troy Sparks, who immediately began CPR. "He was purple and bleeding. He'd fallen facedown and cut his face.
"He didn't have a pulse."
Within seconds, half a dozen other runners were helping in the CPR effort.
A minute later, Boer got lucky again. Dr. Corey Slovis joined the crew.
When it comes to emergency medicine, Slovis is among the best. He is chairman of the department of emergency medicine at Vanderbilt University Medical Center and medical director for the Nashville Fire Department and Nashville International Airport.
"I was running, and I saw a number of people off to the side," said Slovis, whose family has run in the Bolt for the past 10 years. "When I looked closer, I saw someone doing compressions, and that got my attention."
Doctor was awestruck
Slovis, a doctor for about 30 years, said he was in awe by the first responders.
"Saving lives involves just a few things, and those people were doing them perfectly," he said. "There was no way it could have gone better. The only thing I did was what I do every day.
"What Nashville needs to be proud of is that so many people knew how to do expert compression CPR and they were able to come together and save this man's life. That's the real story here."
As the crew alternated doing compressions, an ambulance arrived and paramedics took over. Slovis went with him to Saint Thomas.
"Moments after I left the room, he had a (heart) rhythm," he said. "Him getting CPR within moments of collapsing is what saved his life."
Boer's son credits Slovis and Sparks with saving his father's life.
"I'm no hero," Sparks said. "We just happened to be at the right place at the right time, and there were other people there besides us who jumped in and did a lot.