To save one life is as if to save the world.

- The Talmud

A College Student’s Story of Survival

Paula Opheim Milliner, Indianapolis, IN – 20 at time of event (2004)

Paula OpheimFor most college students facing their 21st birthday, plans for celebration and exciting thoughts for experiencing new places and people are the common theme. Unfortunately in my case, thoughts of survival and whether I was ever going to maintain a normal lifestyle at 20 were at the forefront of my contemplations. At the age of 15, I was diagnosed with Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy, a disease that is rare to most, but commonly runs in my family. Like most young teenagers I didn’t really think anything of it or that it would actually have a significant effect on my life. Surely, it wouldn’t put me in the hospital until I was in the 60’s.

I was proven utterly wrong when in 2004, one week before my 21st birthday, I woke up in the ICU. I had only remembered waking up early that morning and going for my usual run to the campus rec center. My mom told me about the news of what had happened and I was shocked and scared.

I had apparently collapsed while on my way, and luckily for me, I had collapsed in front of a campus cop patrolling the area. As he called for help, I was administered CPR and when the EMTs arrived, my heart started to go into ventricular fibrillation (sudden cardiac arrest). After one shock from their automatic defibrillator, I was revived and sent to the hospital to be treated. After one week of being at the hospital, I was sent home with an ICD and told to decrease my activity significantly.

For me, as a young survivor and person living with a chronic disease, I had an incredibly hard time accepting what had happened to me and what I was meant to live with.

The time after the events were definitely the hardest ones for me to face. But after a couple of years of adjusting, and unfortunate shocks from my ICD, I have learned to embrace who I am and the state I have been given. I think back and thank God often for saving my life.

And now as I enter the healthcare field as a pharmacist, I know I can identify with my patients and understand their feelings and fears. It is a blessing for life, and even more so, a blessing to have opportunities to make differences in other peoples’ lives with my story.”

-Paula (Opheim) Milliner in her own words