Co-workers remember collapsed runner

The plans were set for a day of fun.

Four therapists from Alta Vista Rehab Center in Brownsville were going to finish the 5-K Texas Sizzler in Harlingen - approximately 3.1 miles and each at their own pace - then go celebrate with a pancake breakfast.

Longtime runner and speech therapist Ruth de la Fuente was the first of the group to finish, and waited for the rest of the group at the finish line.

She let out chants and words of encouragement as 36-year-old Manuel Cuesta neared the finish line.

"I was calling him and he didn TMt respond to me, which did surprise me because I was so close and I was yelling his name, de la Fuente said. Then he just collapsed. When I ran up to him, he was having a seizure and I just yelled for someone to call 911."

The seizure escalated to a heart attack and Cuesta TMs death.

De la Fuente does not recall if emergency responders were on hand, but said doctors, nurses and emergency responders participating in the race, were the first to come Cuesta's aid.

"I wasn TMt timing anything, I don't know, but it just seemed like forever by the time EMS showed-up," de la Fuente said.

She adds Cuesta seemed to be in good overall health, but he had mentioned to other therapists at work that he felt chest pain, days before the race.

"I heard his wife ask him or she informed us that she had asked him, ~are you sure you want to go through with this race? TM And he was like, ~yeah, I'm going to walk it. TM He really wasn't planning on pushing himself, he just wanted to complete it."

Alex Ruiz worked Cuesta's shift that day, so that he could compete in the race.

He had worked side by side with him for 17 years, and describes him as a movie enthusiast, responsible at work, but with a sense of humor and a team player.

"I close my eyes and I have a picture of him, because I was with him every day," Ruiz said.

Cuesta TMs untimely death is a real eye-opener about regular doctor's check-ups, he adds.

"I'm going to start because us (men), we never go to the doctor, Ruiz said. Well, I went a couple months back, but I'm afraid of the doctor's.