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Marathon runner carried across finish line said kindness ‘captures the spirit of the race’

Boston Marathon runner Ari Ofsevit spoke at Tufts Medical Center, as Patricia Burchell, an emergency room nurse, and Dr. Matt Mostofi listened.
Boston Marathon runner Ari Ofsevit spoke at Tufts Medical Center, as Patricia Burchell, an emergency room nurse, and Dr. Matt Mostofi listened. John Blanding/Globe Staff/Boston Globe
Ari Ofsevit began the Boston Marathon with the ambitious goal of finishing in under three hours. But as he approached the finish line on the unusually warm spring day, his body temperature had risen to near-fatal levels, his muscles were in full revolt, and his skin had turned a ghastly pale.

“My life was in other people’s hands,” Ofsevit, 31, recalled Wednesday from the intensive care unit of Tufts Medical Center, where he was taken Monday after collapsing just 100 feet from the finish in Copley Square from heat stroke.

Seeing Ofsevit fall, two other runners came to his side, a poignant moment that crystallized the Marathon’s spirit of sacrifice. They helped him across the finish line, then called for medical attention. A short time later, Ofsevit’s body temperature registered at nearly 109 degrees.

“We were worried about everything,” said Dr. Matthew Mostofi, who treated Ofsevit in the emergency room.

From his hospital bed, the Cambridge runner said he is beginning to feel like himself again, and savored the chance to thank Mostofi and his attending nurse, Patricia Burchell, for their care.

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“I’m happy to see you looking like this,” said Burchell, who never left Ofsevit’s side during his emergency room stay. “This is why I’m in the emergency medical profession.”

Ofsevit, who grew up watching the Boston Marathon from his childhood home in Newton, said he has communicated with both men who carried him across the finish line, Jim Driscoll and Mitch Kies.

The three men were strangers, but are now forever bound in a gesture that “captures the spirit of the race,” Ofsevit said.

“There’s 30,000 people in the Boston Marathon, and I think 29,900 would have done the same thing,” he said. “It’s about paying it forward.”

In a previous interview, Driscoll said other runners also attempted to help Ofsevit to his feet, before he and Kies carried him to the finish line.

“He was very, very out of it,” said Driscoll, 25. “His mind was telling him he had to do something with his legs, to move them or swing them, but it was to no effect.”

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In a strange coincidence, Ofsevit knows how Driscoll feels. In a 20-mile race just three weeks ago, Ofsevit stopped to assist a runner, who had fallen suddenly early in the race. Ofsevit said he checked the runner’s pulse, checked for injuries, and waited for emergency teams to arrive.

“I didn’t think I’d be in the same position just three weeks later, but here we are,” Ofsevit said.

Ofsevit’s mother, Nancy Mazonson, she was worried her son would die, or suffer permanent brain damage. She was cheering her son on throughout the race, and saw no warning signs that he would be in distress.

“It feels remarkable that we have the old Ari now,” Mazonson said. “It’s a trajectory that doesn’t seem possible in two days.”

Ofsevit, who also ran last year’s Boston Marathon, hopes to be released from the hospital this week. There are no signs of long-term health issues, his mother said.

Mostofi said the staff at Tufts Medical Center prepares each year to treat stricken Marathon runners, and on Monday saw 28 patients, including five spectators. But Ofsevit was in the worst condition by far.

Mostofi and Burchell said they used heating blankets to warm Ofsevit’s body, injected warm fluids into his bloodstream, and used a large device called a “bear hugger,” which forces warm air on a person like a human-sized hair dryer.

“This is a young man. A healthy young man. And it humbles you to see how things can change so quickly,” Mostofi said. “Life is precious.”

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Ofsevit, who lives in Cambridge and works in transportation, said he plans to run the Marathon again next year, assuming his health continues to improve.

Mazonson said she would rather her son hold off, but is happy he is in good spirits and looking ahead.

Even in difficult conditions, Ofsevit crossed the finish at 3:03:05, just off his goal. And just ahead of Driscoll and Kies, who pushed him across.


Astead W. Herndon can be reached at astead.herndon@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @AsteadWH