In 1953 my grandfather died from sudden cardiac arrest at the age of 43. Years later, in 1990, his son, my uncle. died from sudden cardiac arrest at the age of 48. You would think that would be enough, but it is not, in the spring of 1995, my sister, Lori, was our family third victim of sudden cardiac arrest. Her arrest was June 12, she was pronounced dead a few days later on June 16, 1995. She died at the age of 36, leaving behind two children ages 10 and 13 who both have the genetic heart condition that plagues our family.
How these premature and shocking deaths have impacted 4 generations of my family could fill a book. The pain one carries throughout life when a loved one is snatched away in the prime of life may well surpass the pain and grief that are encountered when a loved one dies of a progressive disease, a freak accident or by the hand of another. It is beyond comprehension that one moment they are with you and the next they are gone. The emotional toll on a family is almost beyond explanation.
Education and advocacy have helped to ensure that future members of our family are protected against SCA. My father was protected from sudden cardiac arrest and was saved on several occasions by his ICD before passing away from heart failure. I received my first ICD in 1997, my niece in 1999 and my daughter in 2005.
We know we can never bring back those who we loved and lost, but maybe our family’s pain and loss can stop others from having to learn it firsthand.
By Lisa Salberg, SCAC Steering Committee
Brian Buck, Survivor
On June 16, 2010, Brian suffered a sudden cardiac arrest while playing soccer on his lunch break. He was unconscious for three minutes before his colleague and rescuer, Cheryl Victoria, began the chain of survival and started CPR, as part of the company’s emergency response plan. He was transported to the hospital where he was treated with hypothermia therapy and remained unconscious for 24 hours. Upon recovery, he was given an implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD) to reduce his risk of sudden cardiac death.
Two years earlier, his six-month-old daughter was diagnosed with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM)—a genetic condition where the heart muscle becomes thickened. He and his family were screened for the condition, and he was found to also have HCM. Unfortunately, Brian was not evaluated for risk of sudden cardiac arrest, which ultimately led to that fateful day on the soccer field.
Brian is now doing well under the care of a cardiologist, and he is grateful to the rescuer who saved his life.
Cheryl Victoria, Rescuer
There is a pretty good chance you have never seen her before. She is another face in the crowd, possibly a parent of one of the kids in your child’s class, the mom with her family at the table next to yours in the neighborhood restaurant.
Tomorrow, it will not matter if you remember who she is, nor her name. What you do need to remember is this: If you happen to witness someone suffering from a cardiac arrest, it does matter who you are. If you are someone who knows how to administer CPR and use an AED, your knowledge cannot only help someone, it can save someone’s life. On June 16, 2010 it did matter who Cheryl Victoria was.
Cheryl Victoria is a wellness coordinator at the ConocoPhillips Wellness Center. She also is on the company emergency response team, which is a volunteer team of employees trained to respond to various safety and medical emergencies within the company complex.
On June 16, 2010, at approximately 12:15 p.m., Cheryl responded to a call regarding a player seizing on the soccer field. She grabbed her AED and headed out the door to the field running every possible scenario through her mind and preparing mentally for what she would need to do. As she approached the soccer field, there were approximately 22 soccer players huddled around Brian’s lifeless body panicked and screaming at Cheryl since and she was the first to respond. Brian had already been unconscious for approximately two minutes. Luckily, she and her colleague were able to respond to Brian’s emergency within the first three minutes of his arrest. She quickly hooked up the AED to his chest, gave him two rescue breaths and began CPR. Our body has a four-minute window before biological death occurs. Since Cheryl was able to apply the shock and begin CPR right away, she and her colleague were able to help give Brian and his family a positive ending to an otherwise tragic scenario.
Jordan Nichols: SCA Survivor
It was late on a Sunday evening when everything Jackie Nichols had worked for, everything he'd put his energy and imagination into creating, fell horribly into perspective. His son, Jordan, had returned from New York to star in the first show being staged in the theater his father built.
But on Jan. 3, one phone call turned everything upside down. Nichols doesn't remember whose voice it was, only the urgent tremble in it. Two minutes later, the producer and his wife, Leah, were rushing into a bar two blocks from his house in Midtown.
When they arrived Jackie's 24-year-old son was on the floor, lifeless, save for the blood circulating through his body via CPR chest compressions administered by waitress Tara Miller.
Scott Ferguson, the musical director, recalls the event. "He was halfway through his first drink, talking about New York, and he just fell backwards in mid-conversation," Ferguson said. "I thought he tripped. But then he was lying there, gasping for air. His head hit the floor really hard. We all thought that was the reason."
It was at that time Miller began CPR. The ambulance arrived 12 minutes later. Paramedics shocked him seven times before rushing him to the hospital. A short while later, Jordan had surgery to receive an ICD and has been able to continue his musical career thanks to the by-stander who administered CPR and the rapid EMS response with the use of an AED.