My Cardiac Arrest -
On September 26, 2010, I suffered a cardiac arrest while playing tennis. The only people that were around were my wife and two friends. None of them had any medical or CPR training. They did remember that there was an automatic external defibrillator (AED) in the clubhouse. They quickly retrieved it and used it to shock my heart back into rhythm. I was taken to the hospital and had a stent put in my main cardiac artery that was 90% blocked and closed down with a blood clot. I had no damage to my heart and left the hospital 5 days later. I was very lucky. I had no symptoms before my event and none since my event.
Sudden cardiac arrest occurs in almost 350,000 people yearly in this country, making it the largest cause of death. Survival rate is extremely low, especially when CPR is administered in the field. Brain damage will usually occur if no oxygen gets to the brain in about 3 minutes, so it is extremely important that witnesses act quickly to help someone in cardiac arrest. Cardiac arrest is different than a heart attack. In a heart attack, damage is caused to the heart muscle due to lack of oxygen to the tissue. In cardiac arrest, the heart stops pumping blood to the body. Usually this is because the heart has gone into ventricular fibrillation. This is the abnormal rhythm that AEDs are designed to shock back into a normal rhythm. Most adults that suffer a cardiac arrest have narrowing of their cardiac arteries due to plaque from high cholesterol. Children can also have sudden cardiac arrest, but this is usually due to factors other than blocked arteries.
The AED that was used to resuscitate me was donated to the tennis club by San Diego Project Heartbeat. This organization helps to place defibrillators in public access places and to teach CPR. Many times the ambulance cannot get to a victim quickly enough in the event of sudden cardiac arrest, so having defibrillators available for use by the general public is important. These machines are safe and easy to use. There is no need to take a class to use them, but having a CPR class will give you familiarity in using the device if you are ever in that position. Project Heartbeat has had 123 saves with their AEDs since the program started. There have been 50 saves in the four years since my cardiac arrest. Please see their website for more information on classes and their organization. Their website is sdprojectheartbeat.com.
Most people who have sudden cardiac arrest have risk factors for heart disease. Now would be a good time to come in and review your risk factors for heart disease. Cholesterol and diabetes screenings are part of assessing your risk factors. Don’t let my story become yours. Practice prevention!