For Linda, it was a normal Thursday in March 2007, remarkable only for a nasty headache that lasted all day. It threatened to upset her church board meeting that night, but not in the manner that it eventually did.
Linda Dickson is a young, vibrant mother of two beautiful little girls. They had come along to the evening meeting because their dad also had a meeting to attend and wasn't at home. Linda was also joined by some special friends at the meeting who almost didn't come; one had to be reminded and the other was busy on a call. If they hadn't, Linda could have been one of the several hundred thousand every year that don't survive a sudden cardiac arrest (SCA).
They group met in the Sacred Heart room of the church, and Linda remembers handing her youngest a piece of paper for coloring, but nothing after that. She had fainted. The two friends who almost didn't attend the meeting are nurses, and they knew to start CPR immediately. The church did not have an AED, but the EMTs did. They arrived around seven to ten minutes, and after two shocks she was revived. She was given medication and intubated before she was taken to the local Emergency Room.
Once stabilized, Linda was sedated and then transferred to ICU at St. John's Mercy Medical Center in St. Louis, where the cause of her cardiac arrest was quickly determined. A virus had attacked her heart, causing myocarditis (an inflammation of the heart muscle that can cause rhythm irregularities). The evidence was clearly seen on her ECG printouts. Where and when Linda came into contact with this virus is unknown.
Now, she is forever protected against another cardiac arrest. She had an ICD implanted in her chest before leaving the cardiac care unit. It is nearly three year old now, and hasn't been needed — yet.
While she did not suffer any brain deficits, Linda is still struggling with the ramifications of SCA. She asks those perennial questions: Why did it happen, how did it happen, and that most painful thought, why did I survive?
"I have an important job to do," is Linda's answer. It is clear that her two girls and husband are the beneficiaries. She now feels closer to her family. "He's my rock," She also feels closer to God, "I can lean on him, and he helps me through the day."
"They always say ‘live every day like it's your last', but I never thought that it would actually happen — not when you're 36 years old!" Linda is thankful, even grateful that she did survive. "With having daughters, I just know that I wouldn't want to be without my Mom," she said. "I want to be there when they get married, and have children." Linda still finds this an emotional subject. "It could've been my last Christmas, or last birthday."