Save Date: March 25, 2008
I was at work on March 25, 2008 when I collapsed from cardiac arrest and wasn't breathing. A coworker called 9-1-1, placed the phone on speaker mode and another performed CPR. I was fortunate that - from the time of the collapse until EMS and Cleveland Fire arrived - my coworkers continued CPR and remained in constant communication with the operator.
Once the EMS and Fire Department arrived, First Responders continued CPR and placed me on oxygen. I've come to learn that a member of the medical team told a coworker to call my wife, as the chances of me surviving didn't look good. After all, people usually can't go that long without breathing.
I was shocked six times by an AED in an attempt to establish a normal heart rhythm again. Unfortunately, the shocks did not work.
My wife Kelli and four year-old son Andrew arrived just as I was placed in the ambulance. My face turned blue and my stomach was hyper-extended. My wife thought it was the last time she would see me alive.
A priest, social worker and a doctor met Kelli and Andrew when they arrived at the hospital. My wife was advised that I was dying and in the slim chance that I actually survived, I would most likely be a vegetable. A social worker took Andrew into a child's play room and tried to explain what was happening.
The Cleveland Fire Department, EMS and the doctors at Metro Health estimated that I went nine minutes without breathing. The outlook was bleak, and my family prepared for the worst.
After several hours, I became stable, and my heart was beating regularly. I was in a coma for two days. My arms and legs twitched uncontrollably and the doctors surmised this was the result of brain damage from the lack of oxygen. They performed every test imaginable to determine what caused the SCA and to see if permanent brain damage occurred.
Two days later, I miraculously came out of the coma and was sitting up in the hospital bed. Several days later I received a St. Jude ICD. I sustained a loss of short term memory, and doctors estimate it was at least six weeks worth. In fact, I don't remember March or April 2008 at all.
Doctors continued searching for a cause for my SCA. After examining my family medical history, it was discovered that my SCA was not hereditary. Cardiac teams at both the Cleveland Clinic and Johns Hopkins Hospital could still not explain why I experienced SCA. As a result, I was placed on various heart medications whose side affects kept me ill for quite some time.
Then, on June 21, 2008, not even three months later, I suffered another SCA at the Cleveland Hopkins Airport as my family was returning from vacation in Miami. This time, though, my ICD kicked in. I remember the pain: my head felt as if it were hit with a hammer; my eyes rolled back and my head slammed into the elevator wall. When I awoke, my wife was on top of me trying to figure out what happened.
Again, the doctors did not have an explanation for the second SCA, but they thought I could have been overmedicated, which may have played a role. Fortunately, I have not had an arrest since. I try to maintain a healthy lifestyle and continue to educate myself about SCA. I am forever thankful to my family, coworkers, rescuers, doctors, nurses and a "higher power."