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Sue - Sudden Cardiac Arrest - ICD

Sue – Sudden Cardiac Arrest (SCA)  


Wednesday 25th January 2012 was just like any other ordinary day; I got up and went to work. I can’t remember what the weather was like that day or what I was wearing, come to think of it I can’t really remember much about the few days previously. I do remember gradually waking up in hospital about 6 or 7 or so days later to the beeping of machines. I remember feeling terrified and trying to express the fear with my eyes, as I could not talk because I had a tracheotomy. As I woke my family were there and doctors and nurses and the story of what had happened to me began to unfold.



I had been sitting on the wall outside of work talking to my daughter Hayley who had come to meet me at lunch time to tell me how her first day on a university course had gone. None of this I really remember but I was told I had a sudden cardiac arrest. My other daughter, Clair said she had thought I had been looking rather grey and tired of late and with hind sight I remember having some hot flushes and palpitations’ and feeling very tired, which I dismissed as being a part of my age and thought “oh just get on with it Susan”.


I am told that my collapse was sudden and as my daughter and I sat chatting on the wall outside my work I said that I felt dizzy and was going to pass out. With a massive thud I hit the ground, despite Hayley trying to break my fall I hit my head and chest on the hard cobbles, cracking a cheek bone and putting my teeth through my lip. Hayley ran into my work and asked them to phone for an ambulance and then returned where a passerby helped to put me in the recovery position as at this time they thought that I had a pulse. As my daughter bent over to see if I was breathing, luckily the first responders arrived just as my breathing stopped. They arrival was in less than three minutes.


On arrival, my heart had almost stopped too, except for some erratic flickers called ventricular fibrillation, which could not sustain life - I was dead! I was incredibly lucky that the first responders and paramedic were at my side within less than three minutes; They cleared my airway of blood, and gave me the all important defibrillation and then put a tube into my airway and began CPR, this continued in the short ambulance ride to the A&E department. I received a total of 40 to 45 minutes’ CPR. Doctors and nurses believed that there was nothing further they could do. As we know, statistically Sudden Cardiac Arrest strikes around 100,000 people a year in the UK alone, without warning it kills 250 people a day in the UK, less than 5% of victims survive out of hospital, 3% of that 5% that do survive are likely to suffer permanent brain damage. It kills more people than Lung Cancer, Breast Cancer and AIDS combined. Early defibrillation is the key to surviving a SCA.


My family were beginning to ring relatives and friends to inform them I had passed away, when a doctor returned some 20 or 30 minutes later to say miraculously they had found a pulse! However they were not very optimistic and warned that they could not be sure how long my brain had been starved of oxygen and that even if I did live I might have irreparable brain damage. My family then had to call people back with the news that I was alive but critically ill and that there was only a small chance that I would survive and if I did I would most probably be brain damaged.


But gradually they started to wake me up and six days later on my eldest daughter’s birthday I opened my eyes. As I woke up in the critical care unit my family told me of the amazing care I had received, I could not speak as I had to have a tracheotomy, for anyone who knows me you will understand how frustrated I became, this was possibly the worst part as I could not tell anyone how I felt. As I became more awake I was told that I had two broken ribs from the CPR, which had nicked a blood vessel and caused my chest cavity to fill with blood collapsing my lung. While I was asleep I had an emergency operation to insert a chest drain. As the blood vessels would not stop bleeding I was given blood transfusions and heavily sedated and given drugs to paralyse me in order to try and stop the bleeding. Doctors also put me in an induced hypothermic state to try and reduce the brain damage that I might suffer.


Gradually I began to improve but I was so weak, and still reeling from the enormity of it all. The weeks passed and I became strong and after about four weeks I was ready to get out of bed for the first time. I remember clearly how wonderful it was when I first stood up, feeling the air all around me, but my legs didn’t feel my own, they were like jelly, but I had to learn to walk again. At first it didn’t seem possible, I was so weak I thought that I would never walk again properly but I did at first with the aid a Zimmer frame then with sticks, it was hard work but I was determined to get on my feet again. I had my first shower after four weeks, it was amazing, I began to feel almost human again and so surprising what you take for granted! After a month I was well enough to leave critical care and onto the cardiology ward. While there I was put on a monitor, which showed that not only had I had a cardiac arrest but that I was having 6 to 8 second pauses where my heart would stop, but these only happened at night. I had an angiogram which came back normal so no furred up arteries, my echocardiogram was normal all good news, but still no reason for why I had a cardiac arrest. Doctors were reluctant to speculate but said it could have been something as simple as an infection that caused it.


I spent 7 weeks in hospital and now I have an ICD fitted that will pace my heart should it need it and administer a shock if it ever goes into ventricular fibrillation again. Now at last I can get on with my life and feel confident as I have my own internal cardiac defibrillator.


 I am now back at work on a phased return to a job I love, and was so scared of loosing. I can get on with spending time with my daughters and husband and of course my grandson Henry, who I adore. Gradually, we as a family are recovering from the most terrifying and surreal experience of our lives.