Rick Fortner

Age: 32
Save Date: 1/13/1995
Activity: At work

My SCA occurred in the afternoon on Friday, January 13, 1995. I was 32 years old, and it was my second anniversary at my first job as an attorney in Portland, Oregon. I collapsed around 3:30 pm, while talking to another attorney in my office.

The receptionist called 9-1-1, notified building security, and called my wife, Nancy, who worked a few blocks away. I had stopped breathing, so CPR was administered by building security and three co-workers.

The emergency response team from the Portland Fire Bureau arrived about eight minutes after they received the 9-1-1 call. Nancy arrived moments later. I received four shocks over the next several minutes with their portable defibrillator and I finally converted to a manageable rhythm.

I was taken to Good Samaritan Hospital where I was stabilized, but the cause of my SCA could not be determined. I had not had a heart attack and there was no issue regarding drug use.

My lungs were severely damaged from aspirating stomach contents during CPR, and I had a lot of problems breathing. I was intubated and put in the ICU after the doctors performed an experimental procedure to flush out my lungs. The pulmonologist quietly told Nancy that the "insult" to my lungs would likely be fatal and that I would probably not last the night.

Nancy settled in to wait with me, and she had lots of company with nearly 100 friends, co-workers, and family members in the waiting room to offer support. Many stayed with Nancy through the night. About 4:00 am, my ICU nurse told Nancy that my oxygen saturation levels were starting to rise, which was a good sign.

The condition of my lungs steadily improved and later that day, I finally started to become conscious. I battled short-term memory loss for several weeks, but it gradually improved. I had an AICD (automatic implanted cardiac defibrillator) implanted before I left the hospital 14 days after being admitted.

I was back to work within a month and everything was back to normal within six months. It was definitely a life-changing experience in many ways.