Posted on 11/15/2021

Survivor: Joe Kuster

Date of Event:

Location of Event: Gig Harbor, Washington

Traci Kuster

It was a Saturday morning like any other. We were home and getting ready for the day. The kids were all upstairs playing, and my wife and I were in the bathroom having an animated discussion, something about finances.

At the height of our debate, I told her (but I do not remember this) that I was going to pass out. I was in cardiac arrest, not breathing and without a pulse. Apparently, I wasn’t kidding because when I woke up in the hospital 16 hours later, I learned everything that we had been through that day.

Immediately after I hit the floor my wife Traci grabbed her phone, called 911, and at the same time began chest compressions. Once she was on the line with the dispatcher, she sent our oldest son Aaron, who was seven at the time, downstairs and outside to meet the fire engines, police cars and ambulance who all arrived in minutes.

Apart from taking instructions from the woman on the phone and doing CPR, she had to keep calm and reassure our other son and daughter who were five and three. Aaron did what he was supposed to and guided the first responders up to our bathroom where Traci was just about out of strength after giving me hundreds of strong compressions. The paramedics took over and rushed me to the hospital.

I was 45 when this happened and had never been diagnosed with any cardiac problems. In fact, I had recently had a physical and nothing was out of the ordinary. I was also in good shape and never smoked.

Once I got to the hospital, I had emergency open heart surgery to repair a bad mitral valve that had never given me any symptoms that typically go along with mitral regurgitation. Recovery took a few months and was not easy, but today I’m in better shape than I was before my cardiac arrest. I now can feel that my heart was not working as well as it could have, but it was normal for me. Only now can I feel what a strong heart is like.

I am forever indebted to Traci for her quick thinking and courage that day. My three young children would not have a father if not for her clear and deliberate actions that saved my life. If she wouldn’t have done everything exactly as she did that morning, there is no question I would not be here today. For these reasons I am honored to nominate my wife, Traci Kuster, for the People Saving People Award. Beyond saving me, she saved our family.

Nominated by Joe Kuster