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Share Your Story: Erin Cassidy

by Anne S. on Monday, February 3, 2014

Erin Cassidy Indiana

It was a random Saturday, a normal one by all accounts. I spent the day teaching my fiancé’s, Steve’s, mother the basics of her new iPad. That evening Steve and I headed downtown to a very popular steak house to celebrate his upcoming birthday. We were midway through our hors d’oeuvres when it happened. My heart stopped beating. It was a quiet moment in a noisy restaurant. I didn’t fall from my chair or slump over. I remained perfectly upright, mouth slightly open, staring blankly at Steve. He gazed up at me, saw my dark eyes, and instantly knew I was in trouble.

Leaping from his seat and calling for help, Steve realized he had no idea what to do next. Was I choking? Had I suffered an allergic reaction? Before he could reach me, a man who identified himself as a nurse jumped up from the table next to us, shoved Steve to the side, and immediately pulled me from my seat and performed the Heimlich maneuver. However, it quickly became evident I wasn’t choking. Steve said that I used to have a seafood allergy, and another nurse, also luckily nearby, jumped up and tossed an EPI pen to the first nurse. He hit me in the hip with the pen…nothing. He then immediately took me to the floor and began CPR.

Seconds. This all happened within seconds. My heart had stopped beating, and I was dead on the floor of a steak house. IN SECONDS. And my best friend and partner in life felt helpless.

The paramedics arrived within minutes. They rushed me to the hospital, where they determined I had suffered a sudden cardiac arrest. The doctors stabilized me, but they had no way of knowing how long my brain had been without oxygen while my heart was stopped. In an effort to reduce the chance of brain damage, I was placed into a coma to eliminate shivering as they lowered my core body temperature to reduce any swelling of the brain.

As family and friends were notified of my situation, they gathered at my bedside, waiting to learn if I would wake with any level of brain damage. Thankfully, I only suffered some short-term memory loss and some word association issues. Six days later, the doctors placed a small device in me, an Implantable Cardioverter Defibrillator (ICD), and on the eighth day I was sent home. I remember almost none of this.

The doctors don't know exactly why the SCA happened to me. While I have a slight arrhythmia, millions of people live with an arrhythmia; they don’t die from it and, sometimes, they don’t even know they have one. Other than that, as my cardiologist says, my heart and arteries are in “pristine” condition. It's baffling. Today, I feel wonderful and am adjusting to life as a survivor, trying to embrace my portable little ICD life saver.

I’ve struggled a bit since it happened; wondering why I am one of the lucky few to survive an SCA. While I will never know the answer, I will tell my story. I will raise awareness about Sudden Cardiac Arrest. I will work to ensure the people I love know how to save someone they love—or a stranger—by using CPR. I will help raise money so more places will have an onsite Automated External Defibrillator (AED). I will get involved with the American Heart Association’s Go Red for Women campaign to fight heart disease.

Maybe, just maybe, through these small gestures, I can help make an impact on SCA’s depressingly low survival rate. And maybe, just maybe, that’s the reason for my survival.

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