Survivor Stories

Survivor Stories

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.

Close Call for Police Officer

Mark Vollmar, Muncie, IN – 41 at time of event (1998)

Mark Vollmar, an off duty policeman,  was on his way to the store to buy a birthday present for his eldest son, Nicholas. His younger son, Christopher, came along for the ride, but he didn’t enjoy the trip at all. They were cruising down the busy street when Mark collapsed at the wheel, his foot stuck on the gas pedal. Christopher was pinned down, but Nicholas quickly turned the ignition off and the car coasted onto the front lawn of a nearby church.

Witnesses grabbed their cell phones to call 9-1-1m and a motorist flagged down a police cruiser. Two off duty nurses came over and began CPR.

The Day Heaven Couldn’t Wait

Linda Kuhn, Millport, AL – 50 at time of event (1996)

It was hot. June in Alabama tends to be that way. Linda was finalizing her purchases at a yard sale when the heat became too much for her. She was under some stress as well, having just moved from being assistant director of nursing to working with a nursing home, and dealing with a failing marriage. She felt that everything was in turmoil.
“I paid for my stuff and fell back stone dead,” Linda said without emotion. Her second daughter, Melissa, is also a nurse and was there to see it happen. Apparently, Linda had complained of feeling tired, and kept stretching her arm out as though it was stiff or cramping up. Melissa recommended a visit to the hospital to check out her heart. But first Linda needed to pay for her items.
“Well, I never got out, I fell back dead!” Linda said with a laugh. “The girl who was taking my money, she’s a good friend of mine, said ‘I turned around and didn’t know where you were.’ She couldn’t see me on the floor!” Melissa started CPR immediately.

Squash - Play It Till You Drop!

Alexander Martin, Owings Mills, MD – 60 at time of event (2006)

Sandy is a die hard squash player, fit and powerful and of average height. He likes the doubles game best, and is quite competitive. In fact they have an annual championship between his family and the Corrigans, the in-laws, from the Metropolitan club in Washington DC, that’s running on 15 years now.

Am I The Only One?

Nancy Pyrro, Littleton, MA – 49 at time of event (2002)

Nancy was packing boxes at 5:30am. She had sold her condo and needed to get out, but she also had to go to work! It was therefore a stressful period in her life. More stress than she bargained for, and certainly more stress than Wayne, now her husband, anticipated. Nancy complained about a back ache, and also that her chest was painful. She went downstairs and stood outside near his truck. Realizing that Nancy’s complaint was serious Wayne helped her into the truck and they set off for the hospital.
“We were going down the highway and I said, ‘I think I’m going to pass out’ and that was it, I dropped dead.” Nancy said in a calm voice.

Young Mother of Five, Saved by Her Husband

My name is Greta Standish. I am a mother of 5 and I am 39 years old and also 2 ½ years old.

September 2, 2006 was the day my life changed forever. The first part of my story will be told from the recollection of others – the story may be incomplete because my husband, who is a major part in this story does not like to talk about this. It is simply too painful. It is easier for me because I don't remember. I am almost a third party to the entire experience.

We were in Vicksburg, Michigan with my husband's extended family, celebrating Labor Day. I was sitting at my mother-in-laws kitchen table, making peach salsa and talking to my husband's cousins. Mid-sentence, I went stiff. My husband's cousin went to find my husband, Brian, and told him that it looked like I was having a seizure. Brian came over, and found me in the chair with my eyes opened and glazed. I wasn't breathing and had no pulse.

Juddson Rupp's Story

It started like any other day, but I decided to exercise first thing that
 Thursday morning. At 7 a.m., my heart stopped pumping blood while I was
exercising at the YMCA, and I nearly died. Before my heart went into
 ventricular fibrillation, I was the picture of health. Although I had a
pre-existing heart condition known as hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, or
"Athlete's Heart," I had never been on any medication. I was always active
in the gym and played football throughout my youth and then at the
University of Virginia.

Eric Vogen's Story

 On Father's Day 2007, I fell down dead just feet from the finish line of
the Latta Plantation Triathlon. I don't mean that I was exhausted. I mean
my heart stopped beating. An EMT, one of eight who worked to revive me,
recalls my last breath. I only remember a few seconds of dizziness and then

Soccer Star or Miss America?

Michaela Gagne, Falls River, MA – 15 at time of event (1998)

Miss Massachusetts As a teenager Michaela was not thinking about crowns and gowns. She preferred shorts and boots—soccer boots that is. Despite her ambition to be a Division 1 player Michaela was crowned Miss Massachusetts in 2006 and went on to compete for the title of Miss America 2007. Her platform issue was Heart Health: Listen, Learn, and Live. How is it that a self-confessed tomboy suddenly started entering beauty pageants?

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