The man who temporarily died running last year’s Bay to Breakers was finally able on Thursday to hug the woman who broke his ribs resuscitating him back to life.
Ken Byk, 53, who had a heart attack at the finish line in 2010 and lost his pulse for 20 minutes, eventually found Ruth Rodgers because of a photograph that appeared in The San Francisco Examiner.
After a few email exchanges this week, he and Rodgers, who wore the same sunglasses she wore in the picture so he could recognize her, tearfully embraced in Menlo Park.
“I knew I was going to cry,” Byk said with runny eyes as they hugged. “It’s not every day you wake up knowing you’re going to meet the person who saved your life.”
Rodgers, a 47-year-old anesthesiologist, also was teary-eyed. “Nobody is going to believe me,” she said of the reunion. “He was about as dead as you can get.”
She was extra-certain Byk had died because when she visited the hospital he reportedly was admitted to, he wasn’t there, having actually been admitted to a different hospital. Although Rodgers is used to losing patients, she said this was particularly traumatizing.
Her powerful compressions of Byk’s chest broke three of his ribs. But doctors said it also saved his life.
Although Byk had displayed no prior signs of heart trouble beforehand, his arteries were clogged. He had to have a quadruple bypass three days later and was miraculously released six days after that.
At this year’s Zazzle Bay to Breakers, the ambitious runner ran again wearing a T-shirt depicting the picture of Rodgers and four other people helping administer CPR. The orange shirt read, “Byk is Back!” and underneath the frame said, “The last time I did this, I died.”
Byk brought one for Rodgers, which she put on over her clothes.
“You can say, ‘I saved this guy and all I got was this lousy T-shirt,’” Byk quipped.
The two said they will likely speak at a rally in front of San Francisco City Hall next week to advocate knowing how to administer CPR.
Rodgers is the fourth of the five people in the photograph that Byk has met. He is still searching for the final person.