Posted on 11/03/2017
Tim and Michelle Webb and family
2017 Nominee – Tim Webb
Survivor – Michelle Webb, Ramsey, NJ, 48 at time of event (April 5, 2015)

Location of Event – Home

I would like to nominate my husband, Timothy Webb, for the Sudden Cardiac Arrest Foundation’s People Saving People Award. On April 5, 2015, Easter Sunday, I suffered a sudden cardiac arrest at home while preparing dinner with my family. I was a healthy, fit, 48-year-old woman with no medical issues and no history of cardiac problems. The arrest (ventricular fibrillation) came without warning.

Tim, who had been a volunteer EMT 25 years prior, recognized that I had no pulse and immediately began CPR (compressions and breathing). He instructed my daughter Lauren (then 20) to call 911. Lauren did and said to the dispatcher, “My mother collapsed and my father is doing CPR.”  Her call dispatched the police, our local ambulance, and Valley Hospital paramedics. Police officers arrived first on the scene with an AED, and I was shocked several times. After about 8-9 minutes, a rhythm was restored to my heart, though I was in very critical condition.

The arrest put my body into shock (several of my organs were failing) and at Valley Hospital I was immediately put on a heart/lung bypass machine (extracorporeal membrane oxygenation, or ECMO). I was transferred to NY Presbyterian Columbia Hospital two days later, where I remained on ECMO until April 11. My body was extremely deconditioned from a week on life support and my kidneys were failing. I spent four additional weeks in the hospital rehabilitating from the event, and having extensive cardiac testing.

To date, the cause of my arrest is an electrical arrhythmia with an undetermined origin. My heart is normal and shows no signs of coronary artery disease. Genetic testing has also been inconclusive in determining the cause of my heart failure. 

The one element that is conclusive in my story, however, is the fact that had Tim not only immediately intervened and started CPR, my outcome would be much different. Numerous medical personnel remarked that Tim’s instant actions not only got my heart beating again, but also spared my brain from oxygen deprivation and prevented me from sustaining any neurological deficits. Performing CPR is always stressful, but performing it on a family member and life partner of 23 years raises the intensity to an unimaginable level.  

Tim is a true hero. His heroic actions in our story go beyond his initiation of CPR. When I was transported to the hospital, Tim who was exhausted and in shock, remained calm and comforting to Lauren and our youngest daughter Dana, who were devastated at witnessing the event.

During my five-week hospitalization, Tim not only spent countless hours with me, but also supported our family tremendously. He got our middle daughter Kristen home from college in South Carolina immediately, and made sure that our girls were cared for – that they were eating, sleeping, together. He ensured them that missing school would not interfere with the completion of Lauren and Kristen’s college semesters, even though in the beginning a timeline for their return was uncertain. He put on a brave face for the girls, even in the most critical moments. He even made sure they were able to celebrate Kristen’s 19th birthday. In addition, Tim took on the role of being the major source of information for our entire family and friends, who were shocked to hear our story. He did all of this while continuing to manage his demanding job as a financial services director. 

Most definitely, Tim did not just save my heart that Easter Sunday; he also saved our daughters’ hearts, and the hearts of our family and friends affected by this. Tim continues to be a heart saver to me by being my source of motivation to exercise and focus on my health, remain grateful for each day and be fearless of the future.

“Gratitude” is not adequate to express what I feel for Tim – he gave me a rebirthday, and I owe my life to him. The miracle is not just that I survived this cardiac arrest, but that Tim found the unimaginable bravery and strength to help our family overcome and grow stronger because of it.

Nominated by Michelle Webb