Even when her husband was in a coma and no one was sure if he would live, Mary Liu knew she wanted to find the woman who had tried to save his life and thank her for giving him a fighting chance.
On May 14, Heather Von Kurtze saw Michael Liu of Rockville running in College Garden Park in Rockville with his young son in a jogging stroller when he collapsed and fell forward.
She ran over and asked if he was OK, but got no response.
Von Kurtze, of Rockville, yelled for her daughter, Alexandra Hofacre, to get help from the house next to the park and called 911 on her cellphone.
Von Kurtze had learned CPR nearly 10 years ago, and she began performing chest compressions on Liu as she waited for help to arrive.
An ambulance arrived fairly quickly, and after emergency responders worked on Lui for a while, they took him to a hospital.
Von Kurtze never knew whether the man she had tried to save lived or died.
He spent 10 days in a coma but he lived, and on Thursday — his 32nd birthday — he, his wife, Von Kurtze and Alexandra were reunited in a ceremony at the Travilah Fire Station in Rockville.
Von Kurtze and Alexandra received the county fire department’s Everyday Hero award, which Chief Steve Lohr said goes to people who have distinguished themselves in the course of their everyday actions.
When a person’s heart stops beating, the odds of surviving with a good quality of life decreases after three or four minutes, Lohr said at the ceremony honoring Von Kurtze and Alexandra and bringing the two families together.
Performing CPR so soon after Liu collapsed gave him a much better chance of survival, Lohr said.
Liu said he was later told that he wasn’t breathing for about 10 minutes, and for the first few days he had no brain activity.
He spent 17 days in the hospital before being released.
Doctors are still trying to figure out what type of heart issue he has, but he now has a defibrillator in case of any further episodes.
Mary Liu, keeping an eye on the couple’s 2-year-old son after the ceremony and pregnant with another child, said it was her mission to find out who had saved her husband’s life and reconnect with them.
When she met Von Kurtze on Thursday, her response was simple.
“I just said, ‘Thank you’ and gave her a hug,” Mary Liu said.