Persistence saved Hans Wegesser’s life.
Fittingly, he ran nearly 100 miles to return the favor.
His run last weekend from Shady Lane Elementary School in Menomonee Falls to the outskirts of Sauk City, was payback for the life-saving care he received at the finish line of the 10K Cow Chip Classic, in 2010.
Wegesser, 51, suffered a heart attack shortly after finishing the race, although it took a good deal of persuading on the part of the Sauk Prairie emergency medical technicians to convince him of that fact.
Thinking he was only dehydrated, Wegesser rejected the suggestions of friends that he seek help.
“I had this agenda; I needed to get back home (to Menomonee Falls) because I had this fantasy football draft in four hours,” he said. "If those EMTs hadn’t shown up, I would have started walking to my car and that would have been it.”
Instead, the EMTs pushed nitroglycerin into his mouth and an IV into his arm. They also sent an electronic reading of his heart rhythm to doctors in a local emergency room. It was the start of the treatment he needed for a major blockage in the left side of his heart.
Wegesser said his doctors called his condition a “widow-maker.”
“The paramedics that were there on scene did a great job to keep me alive and once I got through everything and was in the ICU, my cardiologist and the people around were amazed I made it through,” he said.
Shortly after he finished his rehabilitation, Wegesser returned to running, and began to show his thanks.
He delivered a plaque to the Sauk Prairie Ambulance Association in December, and set about preparing for the 100-mile run to raise money for their equipment. He pulled in about $2,000 from donors over the course of his journey, and split the contributions between the EMT service and the American Heart Association.
A veteran ultra marathoner, the nearly 100 miles was a new mark.
“This was the hardest thing I’ve ever done as far as running goes,” he said.
Hans Wegesser (right) on his 100-mile effort with Scott Susek
Wegesser started at 7 a.m. on Sept. 2, and planned to make it to Sauk City in time for the start of the Cow Chip Classic. Severe thunderstorms stopped him about 3:30 a.m., after about 84 miles.
When the clouds cleared, he returned to the road, then ran the 10K.
A couple of the EMTS who helped him, joined in the race.
“The thing that really amazed me was how many people’s lives I touched,” Wegesser said. “When I sat down with the EMTs, people shared their stories and what they’ve gone through, and how I inspired them to do different things.”