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CNN host and Massachusetts native John Berman is sharing his experience after suffering a serious medical event while running the Boston Marathon last week.
The journalist, who hails from Carlisle, Massachusetts, and attended Harvard, addressed viewers on Monday after he spent three days recovering at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center.
Berman said he finished most of the April 18 marathon, running the race for the 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.
“Now, 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.”
“What doesn’t suck is being alive,” he continued. “And there was a bit of time last Monday where I wasn’t sure that was a given. This is what happened, in so far as I remember it — though the most important parts, I don’t remember.”
Berman said most of the day he was running a “terrific race” and that he “felt great.” He was going on the faster side, but he said he wasn’t about to set a personal best time. He noted he was smiling as he ran, which wasn’t typical for him.
But the real change happened around Mile 24, when Berman said he started feeling 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,” he said. “I really didn’t have that much further to go. So that was Mile 24. And that’s the last thing I remember about the race.”
The next thing the CNN host said he remembers is waking up in the emergency room with 12 to 15 people around him. They told him he’d taken himself to a medical station at Mile 25.
Sure enough, Berman said his watch stopped recording his run at Mile 25.
“They told me that people at the tent put me in an ambulance to the emergency room at Beth Israel hospital,” he said. “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. In the ER, my body temperature was around 104; my blood pressure, wicked low; and my heart rate very very fast.”
At the hospital, staff were pouring ice on him, trying to bring down his temperature. But Berman said the worst part was how disoriented and confused he was.
He said he knew his name, but not his address or phone number. He could remember his wife’s name, but not her phone number. And he said he remembered that she would be waiting for him at the finish line and that it “broke [his] heart” that he had no way to reach her.
“Not being in control of my head was terrifying,” Berman said. “I could not put many thoughts together. But I could put enough together to know I was messed up and I knew that my brain is crucial to what I do, because clearly I’m not going to get by on my athletic ability.”
Ultimately, his body temperature was brought down and he was stabilized. And about an hour later his wife, by calling around to hospitals, found him.
Berman said he started to get his “wits about [him]” and shared an update on social media that he was at the hospital to let people know what happened. Initially, he said he thought he’d just be in the hospital overnight.
But when his blood was tested, it was determined he had rhabdomyolysis, also known as rhabdo, a condition where damaged muscle tissue releases proteins and electrolytes into the blood, which can in turn cause damage to the heart and kidneys.
“I like to call it ‘rambo’ because it makes me sound butch,” Berman said. “Rambo can happen from heat stroke, which is apparently what I had. It basically means you have dead muscle tissue, which decays into your system and can be a huge problem for your kidneys. But once they spotted it, there was really no risk. I just needed to be on an IV until the levels went down far enough.”
The Massachusetts native said he was hydrating an “ungodly amount” as part of his recovery.
“I more than made up for the 1.2 miles I did not run with trips to the bathroom,” he said. “But it worked. After three nights in the hospital, three nights, they let me out as long as I promised to drink my body weight in fluids for the next few days. There shouldn’t be any lasting effects at all.”
Berman thanked everyone who helped him get to the hospital.
“You all probably saved my life,” he said.
He also expressed gratitude for all those who reached out to him after he shared the news of his hospitalization, saying it “made a huge difference.”
But the journalist reminded viewers that he never wanted running the marathon to be about him in the first place.
“I was running as part of Team Beans … In fact, largely because of Andrew and his wife, Rachel, Team Beans raised a ton of money,” Berman said. “It makes it all worth it … Team Beans is what’s important here, not me and my stupid missing mile.”
Watch Berman’s full recap of what he experienced below:
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