Gate River Run participant crossed finish line & collapsed; he’s grateful it happened where it did

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – UF Health Jacksonville’s trauma unit will be in the spotlight this weekend.

The hospital in Springfield celebrates with a gala Saturday night. The event showcases how many medical professionals it takes to save a single life — like David Henley.

For Henley, the fun and excitement of a Gate River Run quickly turned. The experienced runner got to the finish line, then collapsed when his heart stopped.

“I collapsed backwards and hit my head on the sidewalk, and it actually turned out to be the luckiest spot in the world,” he said. “Because it was right in front of the trauma team.”

“That was a God thing,” said Henley’s wife, Karen. “Definitely God. He was in the right place at the right time for that to happen.”

In cardiac arrest, Henley had the very good fortune — or destiny — to go down right in front of the TraumaOne care team.

“As he fell, we had wheelchairs ready,” said Jen Sylvie-Cason. “We were able to scoop him up. I radioed in, met Tony halfway and we ran into the tent.”

She, Tony Hayes and Jennifer Harrell have been volunteering at the River Run for years, and this was exactly the type of emergency they prepare for months in advance.

“We’re in a field hospital or out in the public with a tent set up and 24 beds. And we’re doing the same thing out in the street, basically, that we do inside of the hospital,” Hayes said.

“Everybody knows what they’re supposed to do,” Harrell said. “Everybody knows what’s supposed to happen and the proven method behind it all. It’s choreographed dance with no rehearsal. It all comes together, you introduce yourself and then 10 minutes later, you’re saving somebody’s life together.”

Those first responders rushed Henley into the emergency department at UF Health, where he got immediate care. The number of people involved in that care goes well beyond the first people he saw.

Henley spent five days recovering. The day he left the hospital, many of his heroes came to say goodbye.

That’s when Henley and his wife realized just how fortunate he was.

“I’m thankful for my life, for what the trauma team did right afterward to the care we got afterward. And those those folks literally saved my life,” he said.

“For this event to have happened where it was to have, that talent available right there, that whole team it just was — it was a miracle,” said Henley’s wife.

Saturday’s event is the 16th annual A Night For Heroes gala.

The goal is to raise money for purchasing two molecular adsorbent recirculating systems — or MARS — to provide liver dialysis for patients with liver failure.

About the Author:

Kent Justice co-anchors News4Jax's 5 p.m., 10 and 11 p.m. newscasts weeknights and reports on government and politics. He also hosts "This Week in Jacksonville," Channel 4's hot topics and politics public affairs show each Sunday morning at 9 a.m.