CNN anchor John Berman was two miles from the Boston Marathon finish line when everything went black. The next thing he knew, he was surrounded by hospital workers in an emergency room, with no recollection of how he got there.
On Monday, from behind the CNN anchor desk, Berman, a Carlisle native, addressed the medical emergency he suffered while running the Marathon on April 18. Berman, 50, spent three days recovering at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, and he thanked the medical professionals there for saving his life.
“When you run a marathon, and I’ve run four before, pretty much the number one goal is to finish,” Berman said. “That’s why you spend five months training and getting your body ready. You’re not trying to win; you’re trying to finish. Well, I didn’t win, and I didn’t finish. And frankly it does leave me feeling extremely unfulfilled. I’m not going to lie, it kind of sucks.”
But what “doesn’t suck,” Berman continued, “is being alive. And there was a bit of a time last Monday where I wasn’t sure that was a given.”
The Harvard grad told viewers he’d been running “a terrific race” and “felt great.” Around mile 24, however, he started to feel fatigue.
“Not overwhelmed, but enough that I was doing the math in my head that I could run much, much more slowly, and even walk some, and still finish the race right around the time I wanted to. I really didn’t have that much further to go,” Berman said. “And that’s the last thing I remember from the race.”
Berman woke up in the Beth Israel emergency room with 12 or 15 people around him. He was told he brought himself to the race’s medical tent around mile 25, and professionals there sent him to the hospital.
“Again, I have no idea how I got to the tent, or who saw me there, or who put me in the ambulance but thank God they did,” Berman said.
Berman said he had a body temperature of 104 degrees, ”wicked low” blood pressure, and a “very, very fast” heart rate. Hospital staff poured ice on him to try to cool his body temperature down. But the worst part, Berman said, was being “incredibly disoriented and confused.”
“I knew my name, but I didn’t know my address or phone number,” Berman said, adding that he could also recall his wife’s name, but not her phone number, and he became extremely worried about finding her.
“Not being in control of my head was terrifying,” Berman said, adding that his wife eventually tracked him down by calling multiple area hospitals.
As his temperature crept down and he started to feel better, Berman posted a photo to his Instagram filling in friends and fans about what happened.
After testing, Berman was told he suffered from rhabdomyolysis, “which can happen from heat stroke, which is what I had,” Berman said. Rhabdomyolysis, also known as rhabdo, is a condition where damaged muscle tissue releases proteins into the blood, which can negatively affect the heart and kidneys.
“Once they spotted it, there was no risk,” Berman said. “I just need to be on an IV until levels went down far enough. I was hydrating an ungodly amount.”
Berman was released under the condition that he had to “drink his body weight in fluids” over the next few days. “There shouldn’t be any lasting effects at all,” Berman said.
“It goes without saying that the only reason I’m here is because of the amazing people at Beth Israel. Whoever saw me in the medical tent, whoever helped me get there, if anyone did — thank you so much. You all probably saved my life,” Berman said.
Berman said he ran the race for the Dana Farber charity Team Beans, which was started by his CNN colleague Andrew Kaczynski in memory of his daughter, Francesca, to support research and treatment of pediatric brain tumors and cancer.
“Team Beans is what is important here, not me and my stupid missing mile,” Berman said.
Brittany Bowker can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @brittbowker and on Instagram @brittbowker.