Matt Wall was never a runner. Until five years ago, he considered one mile to be a distance race. Then, the pandemic hit. Matt started biking three miles to law school each day to avoid the close quarters of public transit. This routine inspired him to expand on his sporadic exercise by regularly jogging two miles around Jamaica Pond.
But it wasn’t until December 2021 that he started running seriously and decided to run the Boston Marathon® to raise funds for Massachusetts General Hospital.
“I applied to join Mass General’s marathon team and raise money for the Emergency Response Department in part because of the lifesaving response of hospital employees following the 2013 Boston Marathon bombings,” says Matt. “Two of my high school classmates were directly impacted by that attack near the finish line.”
But Matt also credits Mass General with saving his father’s life.
A Lifesaving Decision
Kevin Wall, 64, a lifelong musician, was hanging out at a friend’s club, The Noshery in Amesbury, Massachusetts, when one of the patrons recognized him as a singer and invited him to do a karaoke number together. He was half-way through their duet of “You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling” by The Righteous Brothers when he experienced intense pain in his jaw.
An abscessed tooth, maybe, he thought. That wasn’t it.
Matt’s father was experiencing an aortic dissection — the inner wall inside his main artery had peeled off and the blood was pumping dangerously between the two layers of his primary artery. Forty percent of the people who suffer this rare malady die before they reach the hospital, according to Science Direct. Another 20 percent don’t make it past surgery.
The survival rate is much better if the condition is treated immediately, but many sufferers die in their sleep; or they tragically delay treatment because the symptoms mimic those of other, less lethal ailments — seemingly benign symptoms of back pain, dizziness, stomach pain, blurred vision or shortness of breath.
Fortunately, Matt’s mother was concerned by her husband’s slurred speech and insisted on taking him to the emergency room, a move that kept him alive that evening.
With no time to transfer him to Mass General, he had 12 hours of emergency heart surgery at Portsmouth Regional Hospital. But just a week after he left rehab, he experienced severe pains again and was rushed to Portsmouth Regional, which sent him by ambulance to Mass General.
Matt took leave from his job at the Wisconsin public defender’s office, flew to Boston, and spent the next week and a half pacing the halls of Mass General, sitting by his father’s side, and worriedly eating meals in the hospital cafeteria. “Actually, the food is really good,” he said, noting an article in Vogue written by his high school friend.
Matt’s father was slated for his second major heart surgery, but after a battery of tests that revealed blood clots, his medical team determined his condition could be stabilized with medications. He was able to return home and, eventually, to return to work full-time.
“If he wasn’t transferred to Mass General, his local hospital probably would have opened him up again,” says Matt. “Mass General has been in charge of his cardiac care ever since. He’s four years out now, so it’s looking very good.”
As for Matt, he’s slated to graduate in May from law school at Northeastern University and wants to run the Boston Marathon before he leaves the area to begin as a lawyer with the Colorado public defender’s office.
“Mass General made it possible for my dad to survive an event that was almost certainly fatal,” says Matt. “I’m running as a way to give back and help others.”
If you would like to support Matt, please visit his fundraising page.
To learn more about Mass General’s marathon team, click here.
John Hancock-Mass General Boston Marathon® Partnership
Mass General is proud to be an official Partner of John Hancock in the Marathon Non-Profit Program. The Non-Profit Program provides more than 1,000 Boston Marathon® bibs to select non-profit organizations throughout the community, which provides organizations with a significant fundraising opportunity. As a Non-Profit Program partner for the past 25 years, Mass General has been able to host more than 2,360 runners who have collectively raised more than $21M for the hospital. Learn more about our John Hancock-Mass General Boston Marathon partnership that continues to provide significant support for our three signature causes: Pediatric Cancer, Emergency Medicine and Home Base.