Woburn’s Ashley Lucchese completed the virtual Boston Marathon three years after suffering cardiac arrest

"We always say, 'It's not the when or the where, it's the why.'"

Ashley Lucchese, 36, completed the first-ever virtual Boston Marathon on Saturday.
Ashley Lucchese, 36, completed the first-ever virtual Boston Marathon on Saturday. –Photo by Trevor Hass

On March 10, 2017, Woburn’s Ashley Lucchese was at work when she suddenly became dizzy, fell to the floor, and suffered cardiac arrest.

Fortunately, her coworkers had completed CPR training just two days prior, so a colleague was able to provide compressions for her until paramedics arrived. She was shocked multiple times, and it took an hour to get her pulse back. Lucchese was bleeding internally, and she was rushed initially to a local hospital and then to Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston.

There, she was placed in a medically induced coma, on dialysis, and on full life support. Members of her family were instructed to pray for a miracle, because doctors believed that’s what it would take for her to ever leave the hospital. Six days later, those prayers were answered, as Lucchese was taken out of the coma. She didn’t have the ability to move her legs at that point, but eventually she re-learned to walk, then to jog, and eventually to run.

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Three and a half years after that horrific incident, Lucchese completed the first-ever virtual Boston Marathon on Saturday. She was one of 51 runners to represent Tedy’s Team throughout the week – 36 locally and 15 in other states – and she’s thrilled to continue to inspire those around her.

“They told my family there was no way I was going to live,” Lucchese, 36, told Boston.com. “Now, here I am.”

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Once she got home after the start of her remarkable recovery, the Athol native Lucchese began to fully understand what had happened to her and why her survival was considered so incredible. She learned that someone who suffers cardiac arrest outside of a hospital has less than a 10 percent chance of surviving.

She knew she had to take the lessons she had learned from the experience to help save other lives and provide motivation. Her goal in joining Tedy’s Team – an organization co-founded by former Patriots linebacker Tedy Bruschi that seeks to raise awareness of stroke and heart disease and support survivors as they bounce back – is to spread knowledge about cardiac arrest and make sure people grasp why it’s so important to be CPR-trained.

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Lucchese feels incredibly lucky that she has more time with her husband, Joe, and her son, Connor. She knew she wanted to continue to cherish every moment with them while she latched on to both the American Heart Association and Tedy’s Team.

As she trained for the first marathon of her life, she had to deal with the unexpected once again, as Boston was canceled for the first time in its 124-year history and the event ultimately became a virtual one. She ran close to 700 miles from December to September, constantly fueled by Joe and Connor’s support and optimism along the way.

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The day of the event, her quad was tight, and everything she ate or drank made her nauseous. She said the marathon itself was tough both mentally and physically, yet she thought back to when doctors believed that if she ever woke up, it would likely be in a vegetative state. Lucchese thought about her family, her recovery, and her training, and eventually she crossed the team’s makeshift finish line on Commonwealth Avenue near the Public Garden alongside friends and supporters.

“It’s like a family,” Lucchese said of Tedy’s Team. “It’s a family you never knew you needed.”

Lucchese was honored to help Tedy’s Team raise close to $575,000 for the organization. After months of tinkering and preparing, the team held a virtual night of inspiration Friday.

Ashley Lucchese, Megan Robert, Nate Fluet, Nicole Schatz, Kevin O’Connor, Abbey Chesna, and Sabrina Bohrer ran for Tedy’s Team. —Photo by Trevor Hass

Executive Director Elizabeth Tirrell, who ran the operation and greeted runners with oranges, water, and other refreshments, was pleased with the way the event came together despite the unusual circumstances. She said those involved were able to social distance, follow all guidelines, take advantage of aid stations along the way, and complete the marathon in a fashion close to how they typically would.

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Bruschi was ecstatic that those involved could do what they love while supporting the cause.

“It’s been a tough season, but I’m proud of my team for grinding through it and embracing the virtual race,” Bruschi said in a statement to Boston.com. “We always say, ‘It’s not the when or the where, it’s the why.'”

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