American Heart Association - You’re the Cure

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Francee Levin, Mid-Atlantic Affiliate

The last thing I remember of my poetry residency at Colleton County Middle School was getting an elevator key.  The next thing was seeing a strange ceiling, which turned out to be in an intensive care unit, over a week later.  I was told I was talking to a teacher when I flat-lined.   The diagnosis:  idiopathic asymptomatic sudden cardiac death. 

In fact, I died twice, but I’m still here.  Two incredible school nurses and a resource officer used CPR and an AED to somehow keep me alive.  I was air-lifted to a major medical center, where I was unconscious and on life support for over a week, given no chance for survival. I made the medical journals, because against all odds, I had a miraculous recovery.  

My heart failed and left me with a low ejection fraction.  I now have an implanted defibrillator, and I’m continuing cardiac rehabilitation.  I did not have a heart attack; in fact, my heart cath showed my arteries are perfect.  And I had no risk factors of any kind.  Without the AED and CPR, I wouldn’t be here. 

I was an American Heart Association (AHA) red dress volunteer before, and I’ve been a crusader and You’re the Cure advocate ever since.   Through AHA’s You’re the Cure, I’ve been able to serve as a survivor/spokesperson to provide testimony about the pending CPR bill that will assure every student gets trained before graduating, and had an Op-Ed I wrote ("A School Saved My Life”) published to help educate the public on the issue.  I'm in close contact with my legislators, who have been wonderful, and I've also contacted my county council, as well as the school board in Richland 2, my home district. I try to respond to all the You’re the Cure alerts and customize the legislator letters with my story. 

Colleton County (where I collapsed) School Board and County Council voted to put defibrillators in every school in the county (including some small rural schools) in my honor.

I'm on a mission now. My cardiac event happened on February 1, 2012, on AHA’s National Wear Red Day.  In 2013, my cousins had a party for me on my “heart-iversary.”  A few days later, I learned that on 2/2/13, the school principal, who’s now in another district, was having a robotics tournament on the athletic field when a woman collapsed and was revived with an AED.  

Every school should have an AED and trained people teaching CPR.  The cost is minimal, and the rewards are priceless.  It’s called LIFE.

For TJ Haynes it was a matter of time. TJ recently threw out the first pitch at a Mustangs game in Dehler Park to promote the AHA’s Raise the Roof in Red campaign after suffering a heart attack just a few months before.

On May 25, 2015 TJ had gone to the local shooting range in preparation for the annual Quigley Buffalo Match. The days leading up to the 25th he had experienced heartburn and back pain but didn’t think much of it. But after a short period of time at the range he found himself short of breath and in pain.

He called his wife to tell her he wasn’t feeling well and asked her to come pick him up. While he waited another shooter at the range noticed his condition and quickly dialed 911 when he told them he was short of breath and experiencing chest pain.

Thanks to the quick actions of those around him TJ was rushed to the hospital in an ambulance containing a 12 lead EKG machine that sent a snapshot of his heart ahead to the Billings clinic. By sending this snapshot ahead the hospital was able to know what they were dealing with and how to treat it as soon as he arrived. This allowed his clogged artery to be opened just 46 minutes from the onset of the attack.

This amazing equipment had been installed just one day earlier as part of the Mission Lifeline initiative that is largely funded by a grant from the Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust.

Today TJ is doing much better. He is in cardiac rehab, is working on his diet and is overall doing well.

TJ is thankful for the actions of those around him and the technology that was available to help him when he needed it most.


Emilie Singh, Mid-Atlantic Affiliate

"When Chloe Saved Gracie’s Life"

It was a busy Sunday in 2013 and no one realized my 8 year old daughter Gracie wasn’t feeling well.  She woke up late and asked to take a bath but we told her we wanted to go to Costco first.  We went out to Costco and ran a few other errands.  June in Arizona …it was a hot day. 

When we got home Gracie again asked if she could take a bath. She’s old enough to take baths on her own, and she got it started by herself.  I was upstairs while she was in the tub for a bit, but then went downstairs to change the laundry, and I would occasionally yell “Grace are you ok?” and she would answer “yes”.  My other daughter Chloe (age 11 at the time) was in her room next to the upstairs bathroom watching a show. 

On my way back upstairs with the laundry I again yelled “Grace are you ok?”  But this time she didn’t answer.  I just had a weird feeling, I dropped the laundry, raced into the bathroom and found Gracie blue under the water not breathing.

I started screaming at the top of my lungs “Call 911, call 911!”  As I grabbed Gracie and pulled her out of the tub and put her on the floor, Chloe pushed past me and started performing CPR, pushing on her chest hard with both hands. 

By the time my husband got upstairs with the phone and 911 on the line, Gracie was coughing and spitting up water.  In a few minutes we had her on her bed, covered with a towel and there were 10 firemen and police men in her room.  She was disoriented but thank God she was breathing. 

Gracie lost consciousness so she really doesn’t remember what happened, but she has heard us talk about it.  We just call it “When Chloe Saved Gracie’s Life.”  It seems like the best way to describe the event. 

It turned out that it had been a febrile seizure because, unknown to us, she was already sick and then went into a hot bath. It just made her fever go up higher.  Gracie spent 3 days in the hospital, and Chloe didn’t want to leave her side.  

I can’t even express how grateful I am that Chloe learned CPR in her classroom.  I wish every kid would…you just never know when it could turn them into someone else’s hero.  Chloe was certainly Gracie’s.

See the family retell the gripping story here