Mari Ann Wearda

Age: 59
Save Date: 7/26/2002
Activity: While driving

July 26, 2002, was like any other day until I pulled up to a stoplight in Hampton, Iowa, and experienced sudden cardiac arrest. As I slumped over the steering wheel my car drifted across the highway, climbed the curb, knocked over a sign, and came to rest against a tree. I was only minutes away from brain damage and death.

SCA can strike at any time, whether or not someone has a diagnosed heart problem (I did not.) I had been to the doctor because of a pain in my left arm. Because my pulse and blood pressure were normal and I had no chest pain or shortness of breath, he thought I had pulled a muscle in my arm. I survived because I live in a community where law enforcement officers carry automated external defibrillators (AEDs).

At 11:38 am, the 9-1-1 call came into the Police Station. Officer Chad Elness responded, arriving at the scene at 11:40 am. He told me I was as blue as his uniform. AEDs save information and it showed that at 11:41 am, it was turned on. At 11:42 am, Chad pushed the button, sending 200 joules of electricity through my heart. It was one of two shocks that I required.

Between the shocks the AED prompted Chad to perform CPR. Twice he almost lost me, but by 11:50 am Chad said I had a pulse and my color was improving. At 11:52, just 11 minutes after it was first turned on, the AED was turned off.

I was taken by helicopter to Mercy Hospital in Mason City where I had angioplasty to insert a stent to open a blocked artery. A week later I was back home with no permanent damage. I can't imagine any more skilled doctors and nurses than those at Mercy Hospital. But first I had to get there.

Only about five percent of the people who suffer SCA ever make it to the hospital. I know how lucky I am a police officer with an AED got to me in time.

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