Posted on 04/06/2007

April 6, 2007 – DALLAS –March 1, 2007, was supposed to be just another day for Gretchen Minchew. As a business coach, her meeting with clients was business as usual. However, one meeting on this day would change her life; Minchew suffered a sudden-death heart attack.

Minchew's day included three meetings, two new clients, and dinner with her husband, which would take her from 7 a.m. to early evening. What didn't enter her plans was that her life would be saved by an automated external defibrillator (AED), a skilled nurse, and three Boy Scouts of America employees.

Minchew's was stricken as she was making a presentation during a visit to the national headquarters of the Boy Scouts of America in Irving, Texas. She remembers feeling faint but dismissed the thought as being stressed about a missing wallet. As she started her presentation, she felt hot and flushed and mentioned her discomfort to the people in the room. Jokingly, they mentioned there were defibrillators if anything happened. Within minutes, the joke turned into reality when she collapsed, hitting her head on a conference table. Within seconds, three stunned but determined employees turned her over, called 9-1-1, and called for Gloria Lundin, the office's on-site nurse. When Lundin arrived she began cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and instructed the employees to get the AED.

Lundin—trained in the use of AED devices—closely followed the audio instructions the machine gave her to determine if the AED was the right course of action. The machine made an evaluation of Minchew's condition and instructed Lundin to clear the area, shock her, and when it was safe to touch her. By that time, the ambulance had arrived and paramedics were making their way to the conference room.

From the time Minchew collapsed to the time her heart started beating again without assistance, 14 minutes had passed. Shortly thereafter, an ambulance took her to Baylor Medical Center at Irving, where a cardiologist performed a balloon angioplasty and, later, placed a stent in her right coronary artery, which was 95 percent blocked.

Minchew knows she is one of the lucky ones. Survival rates from sudden cardiac arrest are less than 10 percent. Having full brain function less than two weeks later is even rarer. Today, Minchew is using her experience to promote the importance of workplace AEDs and helping others to understand women's heart attack symptoms.