I was a newlywed of eleven days, reporting to work for the third day in a new position with the Vail Valley Partnership. I was 27 years old, trying to maintain a professional career and a balanced, healthy lifestyle while having fun and living life to the fullest in the extraordinary Rocky Mountains of Colorado. I never thought my life would be changed by a sudden cardiac arrest. I was fit, thin, a healthy eater, non-smoker and routine exerciser; there were no symptoms whatsoever.

Valentine’s Day 2007 started just like any other day. I was very excited about the idea of celebrating the lovers’ holiday with my new husband so I got up a little early to stop by the grocery store to pick up a card, some heart candy for the office, and a couple of ingredients to make a romantic dinner for my new husband. Around noon, a group of co-workers and I were wrapping-up a training event when I was mid-sentence and without warning collapsed in my chair. My co-workers thought I might be having a seizure, but then quickly realized that the situation was even more serious. A shout for CPR was made through the office when a woman eagerly responded that she wanted to take the course…

Seconds later she realized they weren’t offering a course but that the skills she was previously taught were now being requested. This woman, Sue Froeschle, and a group of others immediately followed the links suggested in the Chain of Survival. Fortunately, the Fire Department was across the street so they quickly responded by running over to assist with CPR and administer defibrillation. Shortly thereafter, the paramedics arrived and began performing advanced techniques in order to stabilize me enough for transportation to the Vail Valley Medical Center (VVMC). Once at VVMC, it was communicated that I suffered a Sudden Cardiac Arrest (SCA) and was going to require a more advanced emergency and trauma center with access to high level cardiac care. Flight for Life was scheduled to fly me to Denver but was grounded due to severe snow storms. The ambulance transportation guidelines had recently changed allowing my ambulance responders to drive the 100 miles and safely deliver me to Presbyterian St. Luke’s Hospital (PSL) in Denver. Several hours later, I-70, the only way to Denver from Vail, was closed due to the hazardous weather and all mountain travel was suspended.

At PSL, my family was told that my destiny was bleak. Despite the grim situation, the doctors and nurses worked through numerous roadblocks, including blood clots and threats of leg amputation, to bring me back to a point of recovery. Needless to say, I miraculously survived and am living a normal life with the help of an implanted pacemaker/defibrillator in the event that something should happen again.

The doctors remain stumped with my incident. Most attribute the situation to an episode of tachycardia as a baby and some suggest it could have been the stress of getting married, a new job, or the blood clot that appeared in my leg the day of the incident. We may never know…

I owe my improbable survival and successful recovery to the immediate and effective CPR response and early defibrillation. A day does not pass without my reflecting on the blessings and fortunes I received that allowed me to survive this tragic incident. I’m one of the lucky ones and have been given another chance at life. I know that everyone has the opportunity to make a difference and feel compelled to pursue this calling. I cannot ignore what happened to me and feel that I must give back by raising awareness for SCA and the importance of CPR training and AED prevalence. Because of these experiences, I’m in the process of establishing Starting Hearts, an organization dedicated to saving lives through CPR and AED education and awareness.

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