Friday, September 18, 2009

Two Hearts by Lindsay Haseltine (Albuquerque Survivor/Volunteer)

I Go Red for my family and friends, and in memory of my late husband, Chris, who died in September 2006 from complications of an ascending aortic aneurism. You see, the story of my heart is really about two hearts. Unlike Chris’ story, mine is about being in the right place at the right time. It’s about the difference between being prepared or unprepared. And, it’s about the difference between life and death. Two years ago, without any prior history of heart disease, I experienced Sudden Cardiac Death.

The diagnosis was dilated cardiomyopathy. Without any recognizable warning signs, my heart stopped. Flat-lined. Dead. Perhaps I should have recognized chronic fatigue as a warning sign, but still grieving my husband, I did not. I wanted to ease the pain of my loss by getting back to a normal routine — back to work. So thankfully, I was at a quarterly advisory council meeting at Blue Cross Blue Shield. Any other place that my daily activities would have taken me that day would have had a very different outcome. My doctor told me that it only takes about four or five minutes without blood and oxygen for the brain to suffer damage. It only took a second for a BCBS employee to notice me sliding out of my chair. In perfect synchronicity, one employee called 911, a doctor began administering CPR, and the security guard raced to my side with an automated electronic defibrillator (AED). Before the paramedics arrived, my heart was restarted. These quick actions saved my life.

The treatment for survivors of dilated cardiomyopathy can vary from individual to individual. In my case, I have medication and an internal cardiac defibrillator. If my heart stops again, the defibrillator which is wired right into my heart will give a jolt to re-start it. I am still working on a normal routine, which includes spending quality time with friends, eating more heart-healthy foods and exercising regularly at Curves.

The individuals involved in my story are all heroes. My doctors said I am amazing and that I exceed their expectations — but they are amazing, they exceed my expectations! I am an ordinary person who was surrounded by extraordinary individuals who were prepared. Why did I survive and some others do not? Perhaps the answer is, very simply, to tell my story so that others too can be prepared and can be heroes. So that others, too, may survive.

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