- Meskerem Legesse, 26, was eight months pregnant when she collapsed at a Connecticut restaurant
- The long-distance runner was rushed to hospital where doctors were able to save her baby
- She had previously been diagnosed with heart problems
By Alex Greig and Associated Press
PUBLISHED: 21:23, 17 July 2013
A pregnant former Olympic runner three weeks from her due date died after collapsing at a Connecticut restaurant on Monday, but doctors were able to save her baby.
Ethiopian runner Meskerem Legesse, 26, of Westport, Connecticut was with her two-year-old son at a Chinese restaurant on the 900 block of Dixwell Ave in Hamden eating lunch when she collapsed on Monday.
The eight-months pregnant Legesse was given CPR at the restaurant before an ambulance rushed her to Yale-New Haven Hospital.
Hamden Fire Chief David Berardesca says CPR efforts in the restaurant and ambulance allowed doctors to save the baby.
It is unclear what caused Legesse’s death, but a friend, Fatima Sene, said the athlete had heart problems which were the cause of her retirement from sport.
Sene told WFSB that the marathon runner was so careful during her pregnancy that she drank nothing but water and ate extremely healthily.
‘She always tried to eat healthy and she always makes sure her son eats good,’ she said. ‘I just don’t know what to say.’
WFSB reports Legesse had not been back to Ethiopia in nine years and was waiting for the birth of her second child so she could finally visit.
‘She was so excited,’ Sene told WFSB about Legesse’s pregnancy. ‘When she found out she was going to have a girl, she called me.’
‘She wanted to see her mother, so I want to get her home,’ Sene said. ‘I want to make sure she goes home.’
‘It is very sad. She was a very good person,’ Sene the Star Tribune. ‘She would do anything for anybody. And she loved that little boy she left behind.’
Sene said that Legesse’s two-year-old son and the newborn baby are with their father.
According to the Star Tribune, the state medical examiner’s office has declined to perform an autopsy, citing Legesse’s past health problems.
Arrangements are being made to transport Legesse’s body to Ethiopia for burial.
Legesse ran the 1,500 meters at the Athens Olympics in 2004. She finished 12th in a first-round heat with a time of 4:18:03 and didn’t advance to the medal race. She moved on to a professional running career in the U.S., competing in events including the Boston Indoor Games, Fifth Avenue Mile in Manhattan and the Millrose Games in New York. She apparently hadn’t raced within the past few years.