Sudden Cardiac Arrest, or SCA, is different than a heart attack. A heart attack occurs when blood flow to the heart is blocked, causing muscular failure to that area of the heart. SCA is a shut down of the heart due to erratic beating. Our internal circuit breaker flips, the heart immediately stops beating, stops sending oxygen to the brain and rest of the body. Seconds later, a person loses consciousness and has no pulse. If the victim does not receive treatment within minutes, death occurs. In fact, there is only an 8% survival rate.
My friend was in a cool down in her class when the person next to her noticed that she wasn't moving and that her body was spasmed in an awkward position. The studio did not have an AED machine - which would have given her the best chance of resuscitation. However, her instructor was trained in CPR, and there were two nurses waiting for the next class.
The cardiologist at the hospital recommended that she be put in an induced hypothermic coma for 48 hours, lowering her body temperature to 90 degrees Fahrenheit, to protect her brain from any further injury than might have been caused by oxygen deprivation while her heart was stopped.
A fact that her family and I had to accept while we waited for three long days is that the majority of cardiac arrest survivors have some degree of brain injury and impaired consciousness. Some stay in a persistent vegetative state. Therefore, after they warmed her and gradually reduced her sedation, we had no way of knowing whether the Lynne we knew would come back to us.
After Lynne regained consciousness (on the 30th), it was not clear whether her movements were purposeful, and whether her eyes were focused on anything in particular. However, on New Year's Eve, she began to nod yes and no in a plainly purposeful way. The doctors recommended against getting overly optimistic, yet were thrilled that there was purposeful consciousness.
Two weeks later, I am thrilled to say that Lynne is back. While time might indicate lingering effects, she is attacking her physical therapy with gusto, and her speech, memory and cognition seem unimpaired. She has defied all the odds so far, and I have no doubt she will continue to do so.
Every day that I sat by Lynne, I drew words of affirmation in stars and hearts. These kept my hands busy and my mind calm. It was great art therapy for me, and I have made her a garland of these little prayers to decorate her hospital room. Here they all are on one document. Please feel free to download them for your personal use (by clicking and saving, or dragging the image to your desktop) and give them to anyone who needs to be lifted up.
Please - make sure that any exercise studio you frequent has an AED machine, and that ALL of the instructors are trained in CPR. This will make a difference in life or death, should you or someone around you suffer a SCA.
As illustrated in this video, if you are a bystander to someone who collapses from SCA, call 911 and then push hard and fast in the center of the chest to the beat of any tune that is 100 to 120 beats per minute, such as the classic disco song "Stayin' Alive." Immediate CPR can double or even triple a person's chances of survival. You can do this without any training. Your actions can ONLY HELP.
My best wishes for a happy and healthy 2017!
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