Rockville dad meets stranger who saved his life

Michael Liu meets Heather Von Kurtz, the woman credited with helping to save his life. (WTOP/Megan Cloherty)
Nathaniel Liu, 2, enjoys his visit to Montgomery County's Travilah Fire Station no. 32 in Rockville Thursday in honor of his dad's rescuer. (WTOP/Megan Cloherty)
An EMS worker talks with Alexandra Hofacre, 9, who helped her mother save Michael Liu's life last May. (WTOP/Megan Cloherty)
After honoring his rescuers, MCFRS presented a birthday cake to Michael Liu. (WTOP/Megan Cloherty)

ROCKVILLE, Md. — A Rockville man is spending his 32nd birthday meeting the woman who saved his life.

Four-time marathoner Michael Liu has a lot to live for. In the prime of his life, he and wife Mary have a 2-year-old son, Nathaniel, and a daughter on the way.

Out for a run last May in College Gardens Park, Liu collapsed while pushing his son in a stroller.

Luckily, Heather Von Kurtz and her daughter Alexandra were nearby.

“I yelled to him, ‘Do you need help? Are you OK?’ and he didn’t respond. He fell down onto his stomach and that’s when I had my daughter yell for assistance from the house nearby.”

Von Kurtz called 911 and an emergency dispatcher walked her through the specifics of how to administer CPR. She had taken a CPR certification class but says she was nervous to start on Liu.

“My training was about 10 years ago and I was concerned I wouldn’t do it right, but I recognize there really wasn’t a way to do it wrong,” she says.

“They said I wasn’t breathing for 10 minutes and the CPR she did was critical to me making it,” says Liu.

Liu was in a coma for 10 days and doctors tell him at times they did not see any brain waves. However, he made a full recovery and can now be there for his growing family.

He met his rescuer for the first time at Travilah Fire Station no. 32 in Rockville Thursday. It also happened to be Liu’s 32nd birthday.

“To know I played any part of him being here on his 32nd birthday and being able to experience his daughter being born in a few months, that’s phenomenal,” Von Kurtz says.

Montgomery County’s Fire Chief Steve Lohr honored Von Kurtz and her 9-year-old daughter Alexandra Hofacre Thursday and also took time to recognize the life saving efforts of the emergency dispatchers and respondents that day.

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