Posted by SCAFoundation on 10/15/2013
Darren Califano, Sanford, FL – 47 at time of event (2012)
Darren Califano, Sanford, FL – 47 at time of event (2012)

Just a few days before Christmas, Darren Califano had a heart attack. He was admitted to the hospital for seven days and during his stay he underwent an interventional procedure to open arteries in his heart, including the placement of a stent. After the procedure, Darren’s heart was still not pumping blood efficiently, and his physicians told Darren he was at very high risk for sudden cardiac death. His doctor said he would release Darren, but only under one condition – he had to wear a “LifeVest.”

“When my doctor first starting talking about it, I was skeptical,” Darren commented. Like many patients, he had never heard of the LifeVest before. “As I was sitting in the hospital, I had time to see the device and how it worked,” he said, remembering what it was like to learn that the LifeVest wearable defibrillator would monitor his heart around the clock, and  deliver a treatment shock to restore a normal rhythm if the device detected a life threatening arrhythmia. His initial apprehension soon gave way to peace of mind. “When I went home, I felt safe. It was a sense of security.”

“Once I got the LifeVest, it was easy to wear and comfortable,” Darren recalled. It quickly became part of his daily routine. Only 10 days after leaving the hospital, at 5:19 in the morning, Darren went into sudden cardiac arrest (SCA) while he was sleeping. He was experiencing “ventricular tachycardia” – an abnormal rhthym described as a“fluttering” of the heart, which is fatal if not treated in minutes. This is often the cause of death for individuals that pass away in their sleep, and were it not for the LifeVest, that likely would have happened to Darren. But instead, the LifeVest detected the arrhythmia and began to sound an alarm.

Darren was unconscious, but the alarms woke his wife and she witnessed the LifeVest deliver a treatment shock that saved her husband’s life. Darren woke up moments later, unaware of what had just happened. His wife called 911 and Darren was transported to the hospital, where doctors were able to care for him. Ultimately, he received an implantable cardioverter defibrillator which provides long-term protection from SCA. Looking back, Darren was thankful that his physician insisted on the LifeVest, because as he simply stated, “If I hadn’t had it on, I wouldn’t be here today.”

The experience was an eye opener for Darren. Before the LifeVest, “I thought I was invincible. But when you are facing death, it’s a different deal. The LifeVest was a constant reminder that I had a major issue.” After surviving a sudden cardiac arrest, Darren changed his diet, returned to the gym, and in the six months since being prescribed the LifeVest, has lost almost 80 pounds (and counting). “I’m 47, and I haven’t felt better in years.”

“I would encourage any other patients to follow their doctor’s orders and wear the LifeVest.”  I’m certainly grateful that I’m still here. If it wasn’t for LifeVest, I wouldn’t be.”


Survivor Stories