The month of October is Cardiac Arrest Awareness month and I thought I would share information the American Heart Association posted regarding the differences between cardiac arrest and a heart attack.
I’ve always been a backstage kind of person; I prefer directing, stage managing, writing. I have performed onstage, and although, I enjoyed my experience, I soon realized I really rather be behind the scenes, and then one day two years ago, I performed some impromptu “dying” on the world stage. The “actors”, I have no doubt, wouldn’t for a moment consider themselves heroes. But what is a hero? In the television series Smallville, Clark Kent says, "The suit doesn't make the hero. A hero's made in the moment by the choices that he makes and the reasons that he makes them. A hero brings out the best in people." I just didn’t know what more to say to my heroes who were willing, ready, and able to help a stranger in distress. It’s not like Hallmark makes “thanks for saving my life” cards. (Trust me, I have looked). Nonetheless, thank you – Jesse, Pete, Mary and the rest of the Point Bonita YMCA staff, and thanks Ranger Eddy and Ranger Gibbs and the Golden Gate National Recreational Park Area for keeping me around a bit longer and not letting that morning be my final curtain call. You truly are MY heroes.
And now, I’m going to slink back to my little area “backstage”. But first, everyone reading this, please consider becoming CPR certified!!
It's funny how the mind works. I could give specific details of things I did on this day twenty-one years ago, but couldn't tell you what I had for dinner last night. . . which was, ummm, yes, now I remember. . . lasagna.
Twenty-one years ago, the evening before, Ed, myself, and our ten month old son, Michael, strolled down the aisles of Safeway putting baby formula and a stacking ring toy into our cart, then later that evening after dinner and putting Michael in his crib for the night, Ed and I went to bed. I don't remember anything else until I woke in the University of Washington Medical Center a few days later dazed and confused. Picking up a phone on a nightstand, I dialed home, and told Ed, "I'm having an out of body experience." I glanced around the room once more. "I am here at the hospital and I don't remember how I got here."
I continued to struggle with short term memory loss for several days. The doctors assured Ed and my parents that it was perfectly normal as I repeated questions I had already asked. Nonetheless, I would not be here today if Ed had not realized that during the early morning hours on November 16, I had stopped breathing and had gone into sudden cardiac arrest. He called 9-1-1 and quickly began CPR before Seattle EMT's arrived to our little house in south Seattle. Paramedics were able to revive me and transported me to Harborview before being transferred to University of Washington Medical Center. Again, I can not stress enough of the importance of CPR training.
And Ed. . . well, he is now and forever will be my guardian angel and that I will never forget.
I remember a particular visit I had with my cardiologist several years ago. It was one of the many times he suggested an implantable defibrillator and I was stubborn and didn't want to listen. Too many bad experiences with the first device I had implanted and I just didn't want to go through it again. He said he understood but also told me he didn't want to see some catastrophic event happen to me and be the subject of the local news. Well, thanks, Dr. Kundenchuk for that self-fulling proficiency.
Even though I was not interviewed in Seattle, I was in San Francisco. Nerves of steel, I was not, as a news reporter asked me questions about the events surrounding my cardiac arrest and how important I thought it was for by-standers to be first responders. He then asked, "How has this changed you?" Goodness. I don't know. I still sweat the small stuff. I still have a short fuse. I still am me.
Did he mean - do I believe in second chances? Or third chances as the case may be? Sure. I know Heavenly Father is not ready for me yet, but what my divine purpose in life is. . . I just don't know. I do know, I need to go out and discover it for myself. Maybe, it making people aware of sudden cardiac arrest or getting automatic external defibrillators out there. . . everywhere. And not only do I want to see AED's everyone, I want to make sure there are people properly trained how to use them and they are just not wall decorations. Maybe getting more people to think about being CPR certified. I would like to see a higher success then 8 to 12% survival rate for victims of sudden cardiac arrest. There is a plan. There is a purpose. There is a time for everything. . . A time to be born and a time to die. . .
Or to borrow a scene from the movie Footloose, Ren said; "Ecclesiastes assures us that there is a time for every purpose under heaven. A time to laugh. . . a time to weep. A time to mourn. . . and there is a time to dance. . . It's the way it was in the beginning. It's the way it's always been. It's the way it should be now."
A friend posted this on my Facebook wall and I had to chuckle. I think this is a fantastic and humorous video that explains several different types of heart rhythms and arrhythmias through interpretive dance. Fantastic! Cardiologists with sense of humor!
October is Sudden Cardiac Arrest (SCA) Awareness Month. More than 350,000 deaths are attributed to SCA every year in the United States and the survival rate is less than 10% unless CPR and defibrillation are utilized quickly by bystanders. I am a firm believer in everyone learning CPR, especially since the method of performing CPR has changed to a "Hands Only" approach. I also believe automated external defibrillators (AED) should not only be everywhere (high schools, libraries, churches, restaurants, etc.), and people should be properly trained on how to use them. When a person is going into sudden cardiac arrest seconds really do count. It can happen at anytime and to anyone and with a little training anyone can be hero.
I know a few of my friends think what happened to me back in June was a heart attack and that is furthest from the truth. It's fundamentally different. I like the "Apples to Oranges" campaign the Heart Rhythm Society is promoting by providing education and information to the general public.
My cardiologist explained it to my husband and I as a short circuit or when the electricity is suddenly turned off. In SCA, the heart simply stops beating. It's as if someone pulls the main breaker on your house to the off position - the power flow would be quickly disrupted, and all power to your house would be lost. The results are instantaneous from the moment the breaker is pulled. Sudden cardiac arrest functions in much the same way. The switch is moved to the off position and the heart malfunctions, loses power, and immediately stops. The person loses consciousness, as blood no longer makes it to the brain, and they stop breathing.
The heart will need to be restarted, which like using jumper cables to restart a dead battery on a car, an AED, shocks the heart back into hopefully a not so dangerous rhythm. On a side note, one thing I learned this past Monday, after meeting my rescuers, according to the final report from the AED device that was used on me, I had been shocked six times!! No wonder my chest hurt. Of course, it also dd not help, that a couple of my ribs were cracked while doing compressions on me. For those who are apprehensive about breaking ribs, at least victims can recover from a broken rib, and I have been told a time or two, that if ribs are cracking, not enough pressure is being used. By the way, Pete and Jesse, I forgive you.
A few years ago, my cardiologist told me about a new subcutaneous implantable defibrillator doctors were experimenting with in Australia and was hoping for FDA approval in the States soon. It was a device that required no lead wires to the heart and since I had an issue with breaking the lead wires, he had hoped this would be an option for me. However, both him and I had hoped that since twenty years had passed from my my sudden cardiac event, that hopefully I would never need one. What do they say about famous last words?
Boston Scientific: Subcutaneous Implantable Cardioverter Defibrillator
In addition, I am going to have to wear a Medical ID Alert Bracelet at all times from now on. I found this design. I love the double links with all the hearts. My only complaint is the bracelet doesn’t turn over, which could cause problems. Someone would have to unclasp the clasp. However, I do get lots of compliments. I had S-ICD engraved on the inside, so EMT's would be aware of my device in an emergency. My only other complaint are the daily emails spamming my inbox to buy ID bracelets. Thanks. I bought one.
This was a letter I wrote to a friend of mine after she was diagnosed with Stage 4 ovarian cancer back in 2008. By God's grace, she kicked cancer to the curb, and has been cancer-free for close to three years now.
Snuggled next to my husband in bed late one evening, I heard him mumble, “How much overtime do you have?”
“Huh?” I asked, jolting him awake in the process.
“Sorry, I was talking in my sleep. I do that.”
“Yes, I know,” I answered back, trying to settle back to sleep. However, he got me thinking about how much ‘overtime’ we really do have?
Exactly sixteen years ago today, I l was lying in a hospital bed at Harborview Medical Center, on a respirator, with machines monitoring my vitals. I was literary knocking at death’s door. A nurse held my hand, and spoke to me. “Hello, Anne, you’re in the hospital. Your family is worried about you.” Or so I had been told, I have no memory of my stay at the hospital. The night before, I had stopped breathing and went into sudden cardiac arrest. The doctor’s never determined what caused my heart to stop beating, all I know is God was not ready for me, and gave me some ‘overtime.’ How much, I can’t say? It’s God’s timepiece, not mine.
Jan, I want you to know you are continually in my thoughts and prayers, and hoping our Heavenly Father continues to give you lots and lots of overtime.
"Hey. . . it's me."
I live in the shadows of the Olympic Mountains, in the State of Washington and I love camping, boating, hiking, and hanging out with my husband, our three boys, and two Bernese Mountain dogs.