Posted on 11/03/2017
Justin and Kristin Toussing
2017 Nominee – Justin Toussing
Survivor – Kristin Toussing, Indianapolis, IN, 29 at time of event (September 13, 2017)

Location of Event – Home

Wednesday, September 13, 2017. It is likely a day I’ll never remember, and with certainty a day that my husband will never forget. It was a day that started just as any other. I had awoken at 6:15 am, as I always do, packed three lunches, ensured our three boys (a set of twins age 7 ½, and a 5-year-old) were in their uniforms, backpacks ready, and then off to school we went. It was my husband’s last scheduled day off before returning to work, and we had planned to spend the day together. I showered, and then my husband decided to do the same.

He made his way to the master bathroom shower, realized he had forgotten something, and came back out to the bedroom to find me face down on our bed. He spoke to me, and upon realizing that I didn’t respond, came closer. He quickly realized that I was no longer breathing. He called 911, unlocked the front door, and immediately began CPR.

He performed CPR for a painstaking six minutes and 40 seconds, all while waiting for the paramedics to arrive and fearing the worst. What had started as such an ordinary day had in an instant turned into something we never could have imagined. Less than three hours after starting the morning just as any other, I, by the clinical definition, had died. At only 29-years-old, and in relative good health, my heart had stopped beating, my lungs had stopped breathing. This was it, and my husband of nine years was watching his wife die.

When the paramedics arrived, an AED was used to help restore my heartbeat. It took only one shock. I was still unconscious, not breathing on my own, and taken to the closest heart hospital. I would spend the next 48 hours in a coma, intubated, my body being cooled, with doctors still preparing my husband and our family for the worst. My husband would share the news with our children, a conversation that I still can’t bear to imagine.

After 48 hours, and to the disbelief of all the medical professionals, I was breathing on my own, and answering questions as I was able. The rate of survival for a witnessed sudden cardiac arrest is less than 10 percent. I had survived an unwitnessed sudden cardiac arrest and lived to talk about it. The next eight days would involve multiple tests, procedures, electrical studies, medications, blood draws, and eventually end with a surgery to place an internal defibrillator. The device that had so quickly restored my beating heart would now remain by, and quite literally in, my side and be alert and ready each minute of the coming days.

We still have very few answers. We still cannot say with confidence what caused my heart to stop beating on that Wednesday morning. We still search for answers. What can I say with confidence? My husband saved my life, and for that, I’ll be forever grateful. 

Nominated by Kristin Toussing