It was the day before I was to report to Aviation Maintenance Technician “A” School, the day that changed my life forever. In the Coast Guard individuals go to “A” School for their initial technical training on what they plan to do for the remainder of their careers. For me Aviation Maintenance Technician or AMT “A” school was something that I had been dreaming and working towards for over two and a half years since I enlisted in June of 2014. I had just gotten back from a deployment in the Arabian Gulf and was excited to get my Aviation Career off to a good start. Little did I know that what was about to happen to me would disqualify me for Aviation duty in the Coast Guard.
The last thing I remember before I woke up in Sentara Norfolk General Hospital was eating dinner with my good buddy, Nick, on Saturday night and heading to bed early in order to get an early start at the gym the next day. Nick and I met overseas and became good friends. We were stationed together there and we were about to be stationed together again while in school. While at the gym the next morning Nick told me that I had finished my set and began acting weird and losing my coordination. When he asked if I was alright I couldn’t speak and collapsed right in front of him. I had gone into cardiac arrest. At first Nick had thought that I had passed out from maybe dehydration but very quickly realized that I had stopped breathing and was turning blue. It was at that moment that he notified the gym duty watch stander to call 911 and to locate an AED. There is no doubt in my mind that if Nick wasn’t there that day with me in a vacant gym early in the morning that I would have died right then and there. It was his CPR that allowed blood flow back to my brain preventing serious brain damage. The AED arrived on scene several minutes later and delivered a shock to my heart causing a normal rhythm to return. Shortly after that is when paramedics arrived on scene and hauled me off to the local ER and then eventually to the ICU at Sentara Norfolk General. I would eventually wake up to tubes and wires coming out of me, no short term memory, and a sore throat from ripping my breathing tube out as I came to.
After what seemed like a thousand tests the staff at Norfolk General were unable to come to a clear diagnosis. I was told that my heart seems perfectly healthy and that this was just a “freak” accident. The recommended treatment would be to have an Implantable Cardioverter Defibrillator installed in my chest to constantly monitor my heart rhythm and to shock my heart back into rhythm if necessary. Fortunately, this device makes it harder to kill me…joke’s on you!
Despite still being active duty, the chances of me being able to remain fit for full duty are slim to none. However this will not stop me. If this event has taught me anything, it is that you cannot sit by and wait for opportunities to come to you. You need to make them for yourself. When my time in the Coast Guard is over I plan on still working in the Engineering side of the Aviation field as a civilian eventually becoming a private pilot.
I would like to take this chance to thank all of the people that were involved in my care at both hospitals and my supportive family and girlfriend. To Nick, I am forever grateful that you were there that day, brother. Finally, I would like to thank the organizations and websites like this that create awareness for SCA. I firmly believe that because of your work there was an AED there that day and someone who knew how to use it. Thanks! Chris