Posted by DebGradowski on 09/26/2014

Hello everyone,

I just learned of this website when reading a small newsletter called BottomLine Personal. My husband Paul died of SCA on Aug 4 this year, just about one month shy of his 64th birthday. Although his death certificate says "heart attack", I now know that was not exactly the case.

We were doing one of the things we loved - traveling by RV. We had just finished our 3rd week on the road, where the last week had been in Oshkosh, WI at AirVenture 2014. My husband was not a pilot or a veteran by he loved all things airplane. We had just set up our campsite outside of Milwaukee and had planned our visit to that city for the next day. You see, we also love our Harley and no trip to Wisconsin would be complete without a visit to the Harley museum.

The day was normal in every way. We finished supper and were watching TV when the attack happened. I know now that what happened was all the classic symptoms - immediate loss of consciousness, some seconds of convulsions, some minutes of gasping for air. I was all alone in the camper and desperately dialed 9-1-1 but I was frantic and terrified. I yelled for help and other campers - strangers, mind you - came to my aid. Someone did finally start CPR but I have no idea how much time had lapsed. EMS arrived, we were transported to the hospital, but Paul never regained consciousness. After several hours, I finally let him go while one daughter back home in Massachusetts stayed on the phone with me.

My husband was a healthy cardiac patient. That seems odd to say since he had a CABG in 2005 but Paul was active, went to the gym, never smoked, saw his cardiologist regularly. He had last had a nuclear stress test in 2012 and all looked good. He had recently had a total knee replacement in January and all the pre-surgery tests were good.

The hardest part for me right now is wondering if I could have saved him. Had I been prepared or calm and started CPR immediately, would he still be with me. Not knowing about SCA or that Paul might have been at risk for it leaves me feeling let down by our physicians. And I feel shortchanged that our retired days together were so abruptly ended.

Paul left this world the way he hoped he would - doing what he loved, no suffering, no diminished capacity, full of life until his last breath. However, I would wish for just one more minute to really say goodbye. I miss him more than words can express.


Submitted by SCAFoundation on 09/26/2014


Hi Deb,

We are so very sorry for your tremendous loss. Please know that you are not alone. So many people in our community have experienced the sudden loss of a loved one due to sudden unexpected cardiac arrest. Many of them also wonder if there was something else they could have done. If it is any comfort, most people have never heard of sudden cardiac arrest and would not know how to recognize it, let alone treat it.

Yes, it is important to know that when someone collapses, you should call 911, start CPR, and use the nearest automated external defibrillator. But unfortunately AEDs are not as widely deployed as they could be. And while CPR helps, treatment with a defibrillator often makes all the difference.

So, maybe this can be a learning experience for others. Everyone should know CPR and how to use an AED. And AEDs should be as ubiquitous as fire extinguishers. When this happens, so many more lives will be saved.

In the meantime, please accept our heartfelt condolences.

May God bless you and your loved ones.

Submitted by Bob Trenkamp on 09/27/2014


...except I'm really sorry, and I'm so glad that Paul left this world in the manner he hoped he would - doing what he loved best, quickly, no suffering, no lingering. I'm 71 and I'll admit that i'm troubled by the thought of my not going that way.

To the question of could you have saved Paul? It all depends on how fast the ambulance could get there, whether the people performing CPR could perform 2" deep compressions, whether the people performing CPR could get all the force off his chest at the top of the stroke, and luck,

I've performed CPR on 53 people in the ten years of my second career - paramedic. I worked on ambulances and in the hospital. On the ambulance we don't often see CPR in process when we arrive on scene. As you well know, when you see a loved one arrest, it's a terrible battle to regain control of your mind. Your yelling for help was the best thing you could have done - strangers are often better able to do what needs to be done.

What I saw on the ambulance was the reason a good friend, my wife, and I started SLICC - short for Saving Lives In Chatham County. (The only connection between the Sudden Cardiac Arrest Foundation and SLICC is that I'm active in both organizations - they are not related.) SLICC has taught Bystander CPR to more than 10,000 people in Chatham County, GA (Savannah area) during the past eight years and performed some research that has led us to be invited for the past three years to the AHA Resuscitation Science Symposium.

If you go to and click on "For past trainees" in the left column, you'll wind up on the Class Video page. Your children, their spouses, and the people they see every day need to learn what to do in the case of a cardiac arrest, a choking emergency (because, left untreated, choking can become a cardiac arrest), and stroke.

If and when it seems appropriate to you, you might want to start a SLICC operation in Massachusetts. You're welcome to use any of our materials.

In the meantime, there are other people on this site that are going through what you are. You might want to seek them out.



Submitted by mauiscasurvivor on 10/24/2014


Hi Deb, I am so sorry for your loss, since I went thru this in Jan 2014, I know what you felt, I was lucky enough to be standing in line with two ICU nurses who performed CPR They saved my husbands life along with the wonderful paramedics and doctors who gave him care. He is still recovering. It has been a long journey. I could not do the CPR myself either and had some guilt issues with that. My heart certainly goes out to you and your family.