Survivor Stories

Survivor Stories

I'm Much Safer Now

Evan Piekara, Queens, NY – 24 at time of event (2008)

Teach for America* nearly lost one of their stars. Just one month after his 24th birthday, Evan collapsed on the St John’s University basketball court. He’d had a trying month, 20 days straight without a break, and this was his first day off. It became a longer time-out than planned.

That July afternoon he fell to the ground after a particularly satisfying basket. Everyone stopped and stared. Someone thought to call security. Steve Ptacek arrived in minutes and brought an AED with him. He started CPR since Evan had no pulse, and wasn’t breathing, just making a strange gasping sound. The AED could not restore a rhythm. Evan was dying. Fit, healthy and energetic, this young man was slipping away and yet everything possible was being done to save him.

Laboring to Death

Sonja, California, MD – 30 at time of event (1999)

Sonja has a beautiful 10-year-old son to remind her of the morning she was declared dead. Her pregnancy had been completely normal, until she went in for the delivery of her second son. She thought it was time, but the OB-GYN thought otherwise. The labor was quite intense, such strong pain and yet she was not dilating. She was told to return the next day. During a bathroom visit to get changed, her water broke, so she stayed in the hospital for overnight observation. Lucky they hadn’t sent her home, because at 3:16 am she suffered a cardiac arrest.

Just Two Decisions Made A Save

Eddie Rinehart, Austin, TX – 39 at time of event (2008)

Eddie had no idea it would be so important. He just decided on a whim to drive to the club and use the treadmill for his morning run. Normally he pounded the neighborhood streets around 5:30am. Not that spring day.

“I was five minutes into the run and I felt really weird. I was light headed. The last memory I have is that I was moving my hand to slow down the treadmill,” Eddie said. “The next memory I have is being wheeled out of the gym on a stretcher with the paramedics at my side.”

A Party Surprise With a Happy Ending

Sophia Jaromay, Antioch, CA – 20 at time of event (2008)

Sophia loved her work. She hung out with her work mates, and made good money. Not any more. The happy 20-year-old was enjoying an impromptu party at a colleague's apartment after work late one evening when everything suddenly changed. Sophia only knows what they’ve told her. And she doesn’t really want to know at all.

New York, New York. It Could Have Killed Him.

Michael Larsen, Seattle, WA – 45 at time of event (2005)

Michael is a pianist. He was once a large pianist — now he’s more careful, and slimmer! In 1999 he suffered a severe heart attack and needed a quadruple bypass. Unfortunately, his heart muscle was damaged and his EF remains very low. At that time ICDs were not implanted as a safety measure like they are now for LVEF <%35. So that brings us to his story.

Working in Seattle on a stage production, Michael had just finished a tiring day and was walking down Pike Place past the market that is a Seattle institution. He was on the cell phone checking in with his producer, apparently telling her that he felt fine, “never felt better before” were his words. Not that Michael can remember the conversation...

One More Fall Off His Bike...

Stephen Woodcock, Kokomo, IN – 62 at time of event (2009)

After their normal Saturday breakfast out, Steve decided to get a quick bike ride in before they sat down to watch the Kentucky Derby. Diane was preparing for the race when the door bell rang. She was expecting Steve back, but it was the Sheriff’s deputy at the door, with bad news. Steve had had an accident and was at the hospital. Diane wasn’t overly worried since he’d had many scrapes before. Just one of the downsides to regularly riding a push bike 100 miles on highways.

Shannon from Alabama

 Hi! My name is Shannon Griggs, and I am a wife and mother-of-two living in the small town of Arab, Alabama. 

On March 5, 2009, I was at home from work getting ready for my grandfather's funeral. Of course, I don't remember any of this or much of the month prior to this, so I rely on the recollections of my closest family and friends. Because of the occasion, my husband and daughters were also at home with me at the time which was uncharacteristic for a typical work/school day. I would have otherwise been at the middle school in our city school system where I work as the library media specialist.

Fastpitch No More

Danielle Burkett, Warner Robins, GA – 18 at time of event (2008)

She played 2nd base for the Georgia Elite Gold fastpitch softball team, and had been playing for ten years. She is no longer. It wasn’t her fault. She didn’t know, no one did. Danielle went to Irvine, California for a tournament in the summer of ‘08. But, she didn’t come back with the team. Instead she visited the hospital for a week.

The reason? She found out that she has hypertrophic cardiomyopathy*.

How? By collapsing on the field just prior to their second game of the day.

She very nearly died then and there. But she was saved; quick action by a bystander made it possible. There was also an AED, but it was defective.

Three Angels And A Special Shirt

Roger Watson Jr., Pinehurst, NC – 62 at time of event (2006)

Three times in combat and once in civilian life; it was that last one that nearly got him. Roger was a Lt. Colonel in the Special Forces, so he was used to dangerous situations. But he’d retired years ago, so it was a surprise to everyone that the most dangerous situation he’d ever encountered was in a fitness center. Enter the three angels.

He Was The Healthiest One

Vince Graziano, Patchogue, NY – 40 at time of event (2009)

If you swim for nearly an hour a day, ride a bike 100 miles without a thought, and generally keep yourself in shape, you’d expect to be heart healthy, right? Well, not so. Not according to Vince. He’d just started work after his morning swim at the YMCA in downtown Manhattan. The usual Friday morning meeting had begun. Not a stressful event, just the regular, routine end to the freight scheduler’s work week. Except this was not going to be an ordinary end-of-week for Vince. He wouldn’t make the train back home that evening. In fact he wouldn’t make it to work on Monday morning either. And as for the early morning swim, he hasn’t done that for a few months now.

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