The day of November 3rd, 2011 will forever be ingrained into my head. It’s the day my life tragically flipped upside down. The day even started off horrible: I woke up at around 4:45 to the screaming of my mother for help and to call 911. I jumped out of the top bunk of the bunk bed I shared with my older sister and ran to the sound of the screaming. I reached the bathroom and walked in to see my mom sobbing, kneeling by the bathtub holding my blue-lipped sister. My twelve-year-old self did the only thing I could and I called 911 and held my confused 8-year-old brother in my arms, walked outside and waited for the sound of the paramedics coming to save my sister. As I was waiting all I could think about is why her? Why would the 17-year-old girl who helped raise me no longer be there for me? Why Ciara? When the police pulled in they resuscitated her and waited for the paramedics to arrive to take her the hospital where she was deemed brain dead and put on life support while we waited for my dad to get an emergency flight home from his deployment overseas. Four days later my father arrived and we celebrated my sister’s 18th birthday with her, the next day she was taken off life support and three days later on December 7th, 2011 my sister passed away. Seeing someone so close to you lying lifeless in a hospital bed with tubes coming out everywhere is not something you can un-see. Five years later I still wonder what life would be like if she were still here. What kind of advice would she give me? What career would she have? Would I be an aunt? These are the questions I wonder everyday, and everyday I hope no one else will ever ask themselves the same questions.
My family and I were lost and in a daze in which we wanted to do nothing, but we knew Ciara wouldn’t want that. So around a year after she passed away, we paired up with the Eric Paredes Save A Life Foundation to ensure that no other family would go through the pain of losing someone so young to an undetected heart condition. My first day working with the EP Save A Life foundation was a little nerve-racking. I was surrounded by new people who wanted to change the way people think about heart problems. I met all of these amazing people who have moving stories about their run-in with sudden cardiac arrest. And I very quickly learned these people are going to stay in my life for a long time—they’re my second family. My job at the heart screening was to teach the teens that were getting electrocardiograms how to do cardiopulmonary resuscitation (C.P.R.) so that if they were in a situation that needed to have that sort of help they knew what to do. That made me feel like I’m making an impact on people. I wanted to walk away from this but instead decided to do something to fight for the lives that no longer exist because of this horrible thing. that’s what EP Save A Life did for me. It helped my family and I heal. I know that the fight against sudden cardiac arrest is far away from being won, but I hope that someday it’s beat and no one has to feel that pain that I feel every day. Cayla