Save Date: 1/21/1995
Activity: On stage
On January 21, 1995, at a minute or so after 10:00 p.m., I died. Though I'm known as a funny actress, this is no joke. I have proof; a photocopy of my Seattle Fire Department Medical Incident Report. Question 24 is Patient Condition on Arrival.Two answer options are provided: (1) Alive, or (2) Dead. My report has a big circle around number two. So it's official. The evening began quite normally, or so I've been told; I have no memory of the events of that night, or most of that following week. We had just completed a live audience taping of our television show, "Almost Live!" While standing among the other actors onstage, I murmured, "I don't feel too --," then collapsed. And more than a hundred people laughed; it was a sketch comedy show after all, and they had just watched us spoof the TV drama "ER!". They didn't know I was experiencing Sudden Cardiac Arrest. They assumed it was simply an actor's pratfall. No one dreamt a vibrant and healthy woman in her thirties would literally drop dead in front of them. Fellow cast members knew my nose dive wasn't planned. Following the initial flurry of fear and confusion, they propelled into action the Chain of Survival: a 9-1-1 call, CPR from a volunteer firefighter who happened to be in the audience, a swift response from EMS/Medic One, and ultimately, defibrillation. In the movies, the process of shocking a patient back to life is accomplished in about 30 seconds. In real life, it's a bit longer. I lay on the studio floor, clinically dead, for at least 15 minutes. At 10:19 p.m. after more CPR, intravenous cardiac drugs, and six defibrillator shocks of increasing voltage, they restored a viable heartbeat. I joined the elite club of those who "come back." Next came eight days of exceptional hospital and surgical care. With the love and support of my family, friends and healthcare professionals I was released. I was equipped with my own life-saving equipment-- an Implantable Cardioverter Defibrillator (ICD) embedded firmly in my chest, monitoring every beat of my heart. Eight years later, I have a smaller, more technologically advanced ICD, programmed to deliver a life-saving shock should I once again experience Ventricular Fibrillation, the most fatal heart arrhythmia. I died on January 21, 1995, but I'm very much alive today, thanks to an AED.