Save Date: 1987
Activity: Playing softball
When I got a call from friends asking me to fill in at the last minute for a softball game in 1987, I had no idea that my quick response of "Sure!" would change my life. I'd been burning the candle at both ends, trying to be the perfect office manager/mother/wife and thought "a bit of exercise" would do me good. It was a July evening in Seattle as I kissed my family (husband Jim, five-year-old son, Peter and one-year-old daughter, Emily) good-bye and went off on a lark to have some fun.
I got to the game and in my first at-bat I hit a single and the fellow behind me hit an in-the-park home run. How exciting and fun! Once we were back in the dugout I just had time to smoke a cigarette and finish my beer before we had to get up and run out onto the field again. And I ran. Hard.
When I arrived at my outfield position, though, I started feeling light-headed and realized I was going to faint. I remember being surprised ("For heaven's sake, I think I'm about to faint!") and immediately considered what "the proper way to faint" would be... I carefully lay down on the grass and suddenly felt my heart beating very rapidly while my chest was getting tighter and tighter, making it harder to breathe. I took a deep breath in an effort to calm down and, when I did, the quick increase of oxygen sent my body's systems into overdrive and rather than explode with trapped blood, my heart stopped. I'd dropped dead.
My teammates looked over and thought I was joking around, but after a couple of minutes they realized that something was wrong and came over to check. When I couldn't be roused, someone checked my pulse and realized that there was none. Two of the people present began administering CPR (Seattle was the leading city in the country for CPR training), another person had one of "those new car phones" (which many of us were making fun of in "those days") and he dialed 911, while a third person went off on foot to look for help from the surrounding neighborhood...
While the initial CPR was saving my brain, it wasn't starting my heart. Person #3 found an off-duty Policeman, however, who came and took over the CPR more aggressively. The call to 911 brought the Medic One unit from the Fire Station "right around the corner". Fourteen minutes and three-electrical-shocks-to-my-heart later I had a pulse again and was "back". I was taken on life support to Swedish Hospital in Seattle and it wasn't known if I was going to survive the trauma to the brain that the anoxia (lack of oxygen) had caused during that fourteen minute time span. I was in a coma for awhile and when I regained consciousness the initial memory damage I suffered erased any recollection of the previous ten years of my life (including my move to Seattle, my husband and the birth of my children).
As you can see, I did remember it, though, and although I've had to work my way through the ongoing challenges of a disabling abi (anoxic brain injury) over the last twenty years, I'm very excited to have found a place like SCAA where I can connect with "people like me" who appreciate the every day blessings of just being alive. As I'm writing this in the fall of 2006, I'm enjoying my seventh ICD, Internal Cardiac Defibrillator, which sits quietly in my shoulder ready to charge if the tachycardia (sp?) happens again, which it never has.
My story is a deeper example of the "what-ifs" that surround incidents of SCA. Terri Schiavo was a profound example of how damaging anoxia can be to a Sudden Cardiac Arrest survivor. How far is too far? How long is too long? I've spoken to Medics who've drained the batteries on their defibrillators in an effort to bring a young person back to life from SCA. The combination of circumstances (911, CPR and AED), often referred to as "the chain of survival", is what brought all of me back twenty years ago. I'm excited that the placement of more AEDs in our society will not only impact the number of SCA survivors but also the quality of life for SCA survivors in the future.
I don't know how you found this website, but I'm grateful to have found SCAA through National Public Radio announcements. This organization's continuing effort to educate and motivate will make a difference in how SCA stories "end" in the future. SCA isn't the killer it used to be and SCAA is leading the charge in saving many lives that would have been lost just a few years ago. Please join me in supporting such a valuable organization and become a member today!