Survivor Stories

Survivor Stories

If There's No Defibrillator, Pull Out a Knife?

Stan Wisniewski, Chicago, IL – 24 at time of event (1954)

Stan WisniewskiWhen Stan collapsed onto on the darkened radiology lab floor, cardiology was not yet mainstream, and defibrillators were mains powered. Drugs were revolutionizing medicine and antibiotics were used liberally, but surgery was king. And Stan is still here today because of those three disciplines. If he had had his cardiac arrest 50 years later he might have kept those two ribs and his left nipple. But he is not sorry at all. “Whatever happens, happens. We’ll make the best of it,” Stan says is his motto.

A Gallon of Milk, An Angel and a Defibrillator is All One Needs...

Mary Jo Cipollini, Poughkeepsie, NY – 36 at time of event (2002)

A trip to the supermarket can change your life forever. Mary Jo had taken her two-year-old Tommy, and her parents, grocery shopping one morning in early October. At the store, she received a call from the nurse at her six-year-old daughter’s school, asking Mary Jo to pick Ally up because she had an earache. Unperturbed, Mary Jo left Tommy with Grandma and Grandpa, and headed out to the parking lot with a handful of shopping bags, to collect her daughter.

Miracle Man Looks to God for Guidance.

Tomas Schafer, Boise, ID – 61 at time of event (2008)

Tomas SchaferHe’s six-foot tall, strong and fit, and weighed 200 lbs before he began exercising one Monday afternoon in February this year. Tomas can’t really tell you what happened. In fact this ex-sports-journalist told me can’t even remember the 2008 Super Bowl. “We had guests over to watch it together and, apparently, it was an exciting game!” He also lost Christmas, New Years and all of January. He does, however, have love; his fiancée Marilee can attest to that. And he has God guiding him forward through this troubling time.

For Colby It Was Nearly RIP at the PIR!

Colby Brooks, Portland, OR – 30 at time of event (2008)

Colby Brooks is an athlete, just like his brothers. “I’m super-active,” he says with pride, describing how he goes hiking and biking alone into the mountains with 80 pounds of camping gear on his back. While he wouldn’t class his physical exertions as extreme sports, you could certainly say they are at that end of the spectrum. His specific interest is bike racing—the kind that requires you to pump hard with your legs. In fact he was doing just that one Monday last month in the Mountain Bike Short Track Series at PIR (Portland International Raceway). Today, he can’t really remember that fateful evening. He can only relay the story he’s been told.

One Cardiac Arrest, Two Lives and Four Decades of Cardiac Education!

Jose Antoni, M.D., Corpus Christi ,TX – 40 at time of event (1967)

Dr. Antoni recently celebrated the 40th anniversary of his cardiac arrest and the memory of that day is still fresh. He and a friend were having breakfast one morning prior to going fishing, when he felt nauseous, with a vague pressure in his chest. As he describes it “I was in denial. I was feeling pretty sick. But I was only forty40 years old, and I said ‘This is not going to happen to me’”.

Is There a Doctor in the House?

Cheri Olson, M.D., La Crosse, WI – 51 at the time of the event (2008)

Dr. Cheri OlsonWhere is the best place to have a major medical emergency? In a hospital, where there is a plentiful supply of doctors and nurses. And so it was. Dr. Cheri Olson was seeing one of her more sprightly patients, Edna Athnos, and both will remember that consultation forever. Edna watched as her physician promptly died before her very eyes. Cheri had fallen onto the exam room floor and was “just gone, with her eyes open.”

A visit to the dentist saved his life.

Steve Doochin, Scarsdale, NY – 50 at time of event (2000) - now DECEASED

Steve was more than the average type A personality, maybe even type AAA. Now, he feels more like a type A-. He was pushing the envelope of life and feeling a little clammy one June day in 2000, while at a CVS store getting the prescriptions for their kids’ summer camp. He recalled a recent visit to the dentist, where he was told he had high blood pressure. So, while waiting for the prescriptions, he tried out the blood pressure cuff, and said to himself “There’s something wrong with this machine.” The reading just didn’t seem right.

No Stray Bullet

Jerry Vauk Jr., Austin, TX – 38 at the time of the event (2008)

Jerry VaukSaturday morning, Jerry sets off to test the bike route to his new workplace, two miles from home. He never got there. He doesn’t know why. In fact he can’t even remember the Friday before. He’s lucky to be able to tell the story. So very lucky, now he’s a survivor of the nation’s number one killer. He had suffered a sudden cardiac arrest. He was found collapsed, under his bike, half on the sidewalk, half on the road.

Two men in a truck saw him and called 9-1-1. A nurse on her way to jazzercise class saw their truck blocking the lane and stopped to help administer CPR. No one else passed by while they waited for the emergency services.

Still Holding On

Bill Schafer, Ballwin, MO – 67 at time of event (1999)

Bill SchaeferRuthie asked her husband if he could hold on until they reached the gate at O’Hare airport. Bill says that request saved his life. If he had gone to the restroom like he wanted to, Roger, the flight attendant, wouldn’t have been there. Neither would the cardiologist from a nearby hospital. And Stacy, the lovely young and attractive blonde from Iowa, would never have given him the “kiss of life,” (the kiss of a lifetime?)

A Parting Gift

Bonnie Stine, Lakeland, FL – 51 at time of event (2006)

Bonnie StineBonnie never knew that she had something wrong with her heart. No one put all the little pieces together. She was often a little out of breath, not exactly in shape, pre-menopausal, and even had a little swelling in her ankles. As a registered nurse, she might have known better, but cardiology was not her specialty. She knew she was overweight, and the two Caesarian sections hadn’t helped.

She consulted a cardiologist who felt there was no physical problem, despite some arrhythmias*. There was also that time long ago when she suffered a concussion. But the dizzy spells didn’t seem to have any pattern or reason. So she sought another opinion. This time, they thought she might have a neurological problem.

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