Posted by Walter Watts on 07/22/2014

Step One: Waking up . . .

Chances are if you are reading this you have suffered a sudden cardiac arrest (SCA) or know someone who has and you have some questions, a lot of them. I do not have the answers for why this happened, the proper health plan or diet to follow after an event or anything funded by research or a degree.

I have a story and a heart for people going through what I went through, a still beating heart. So, if you are scared like most of us survivors, if you are thankful, like most of us survivors, and if you just want someone to understand what you are going through, like most of us survivors, here it is: my how to guide for after you wake up from your SCA.

Wake up. No really wake up. The life you knew is officially on hold. You have to be your own superhero today, so suit up.

My cardiac arrest happened on a Tuesday. I did not wake up until Thursday. One SCA, one shock and two days later I woke up confused, fearful and immediately confronted with some big decisions, like whether or not to have the doctors cut my chest for open heart surgery. Here is what I learned in the first hour of waking up

  1. If you believe in a God, thank him. You are breathing. Take a moment to grasp the implications of that first breath: You are alive and have survived a SCA, which claims nine out of ten of its victims. Do not underplay that, embrace the fact that you just lived.
  2. Connect with what just happened. SCA research has a long way to go, so from the moment you wake up you HAVE TO be your own patient’s advocate. If you have a support group, use them. If you have nurses around, use them. There will be talk of what happened, what you ‘need’ to do now and the bottom line is you will forget most of it. Take notes. It will help you stay focused and help keep your emotions in check.
  3. Keep your emotions in check. A near death experience is jarring and scary. The fact of the matter is, your moment of weakness needs to wait until you are out of the woods. The stress and anxiety of everything is not going to help your heart, but coming up with solutions will.
  4. Coming up with solutions. As is with almost every component of life, you will be flooded with options. Consult your cardiologist and anelectrophysiologist if you can. Contrary to what the people closest to you, WebMD and nervous wiki searches will tell you . . . most of them know what they are doing. Your heart consists of plumbing and electrical current. In the next few months you will learn more about this than you could ever imagine. Lists are continually your best friend. Write down every solution and weigh out each option.
  5. Prepare for your solution. Once you have decided on a medical path to take in response to your SCA, prepare for what is next. Surgery, recovery and moving forward take a lot out of you physically, mentally and emotionally. Whatever your method, you need to be ready.

More about Walter's case...