On December 9, thousands of runners will take off through the streets for the 48th BMW Dallas Marathon. Somewhere in the crowd of competitors will be a man who collapsed while running the course last year. He's running again this year, along with his heart surgeon, a doctor who truly is going the extra mile to make good on a post-op pledge he made to his patient.
Dwayne Pickens has been training for months for his big comeback, running four to five miles a day, "Yeah 4 to 5 days a week.” He is determined to improve on his results in the Dallas Marathon.
"One minute you are running the marathon, you’re a champion and everyone is cheering, and it’s great, the TV is there, helicopters and so on. And the next thing you know the lights are going out and you are upside down," said Dr. Baron Hamman, a cardiac surgeon with Baylor Scott & White Heart and Vascular Hospital.
He operated on Pickens, who had suffered a massive heart attack and had gone into cardiac arrest while running for a relay team in last year’s marathon. “His narrowings were critical and he had a lot of them,” said Dr. Hamman.
Pickens needed a quadruple bypass. And for some reason, Dr. Hamman said, “I saw a little bit of myself in him.” It made the heart surgeon examine himself, “I thought, 'Wow, it is a short trip on this planet. Maybe we ought to look into our own activities'...yeah for me.”
After the operation, doctor and patient had an unusual heart to heart about how both of them could get back on track. The two men recalled the conversation:
Dr. Hamman: “He asked me if he could run the marathon again. And the whole family was standing there with bated breath and I said yes and there was a pregnant silence."
Pickens: “And the first thing out of his mouth is I have a deal for you”
Dr. Hamman: “I will run it with you how about that?”
Pickens: “And I went oh okay that is fine with me, and then he looked at my sons and said you all can run too right?”
A year later, Pickens has a new relay team. He and Dr. Hamman recently meet at the hospital to discuss the run, "This is going to be so much fun. I am so looking forward to it. How are you feeling, good? Great!”
In the run-up to the big run, Dr. Hamman had been training hard, and said, “I have lost some weight and I feel better.”
Hearing that, Pickens said, "That’s good I didn’t know that." With the big run still more than a week away, the marathoner seems content, buoyed by the notion that his comeback has already produced better results for the surgeon who raced to save his life.