It was the spring semester of my senior year at Gonzaga University, I was young and fit. I ate healthy food and worked out daily. But, in the second quarter of an intramural basketball game, I collapsed in the middle of the basketball court. My heart had stopped. I suffered a cardiac arrest. Court monitors who saw me drop called 911 and began CPR. Medics arrived and used an Automated External Defibrillator (AED) to “re-start” my heart. I was diagnosed with a genetic condition, Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy, which I was unaware of before my cardiac arrest.
Prior to my “event” I was unfamiliar with sudden cardiac arrest, let alone, that it could happen to a young, healthy person. Since that day, January 24, 2010, I have a passion for educating others about sudden cardiac arrest. The opportunity to connect with other young people who have heart problems has been great!
At the Parent Heart Watch Conference in Seattle, young people got acquainted with others who had similar, yet unique, cardiac experiences. Being a “survivor” can be challenging. There are personal ups and downs, the euphoria of recovering or living with a life-threatening cardiac condition, the opportunities to help others, the label “survivor,” the occasion to explore different career options, the perceived “expectations,” the athletic restrictions, the fear of another incident, the pressure of “You survived? You are meant to do something …”
The “newbies” and “veterans” of the group shared their cardiac experiences, their curiosity about what a pacemaker shock might feel like, their weariness of new “survivor” celebrity status in their local community and the sports and activities they are currently participating in – some even escaped for a bit to catch the Ravens/Patriots game.
While it is possible to feel a disconnect from family and friends who can’t relate to your experience, it is special to find support, strength, and friendship with others “Connected by Hearts.” Thanks to the Parent Heart Watch for facilitating this opportunity.