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Meet Paul: From heart attack to marathon runner

While on a trek to Mount Everest base camp in 2006, Paul Bernardin, of Winnipeg, unknowingly experienced his first heart attack. He was just 49 years old. His fellow climbers assumed he was struggling with the elevation, and he was treated for altitude sickness. 

After he returned home, Bernardin experienced a second heart attack. This time, there was no mistaking the symptoms: a soreness in his arms and jaw, a squeezing feeling across his chest, and persistent nausea. Knowing that he was in danger, he dialed 911.  

Bernardin was experiencing a STEMI – the most serious kind of heart attack. He was sent to the Cardiac Catheterization Lab at St. Boniface Hospital and received a stent to open blood flow to his heart. He survived, thanks to the compassionate care and quick intervention at St. B, Manitoba’s Cardiac Centre of Excellence. 

“Once you get in, it’s like a well-oiled machine. It’s so efficient. Everything and everyone just moves into place,” Bernardin remarked when reflecting on the excellent care. “When you really need help, things run so smoothly. It’s the most amazing thing.” 

Bernardin’s cardiac care team gave him the gift of time. And with it, the energy and motivation to lead a healthier life. He took up running. By Father’s Day of 2008, he had completed his first Manitoba half marathon. He kept going. 

Now, 15 years later, he’s completed 18 full marathons, 70 half marathons, and he’s still running.  

Wanting to make a difference while pursuing his passion, Bernardin wanted to make his runs even more meaningful. He decided to set himself a new challenge: to run every single street in Winnipeg, totalling 5,000km. That’s the same as running coast to coast, from Vancouver to Quebec City.  

Through his Winnipeg Street Run 5000K project, Bernardin aims to raise money for cardiac care at St. Boniface Hospital. He plans to keep it going until 2026, the 20th anniversary of Bernardin’s heart attacks. 

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