I was fourteen at the time, on a trip to Israel with my family celebrating my sister’s Bat Mitzvah. It was supposed to be a wonderful excursion for everyone, a two-week experience of a lifetime in the holiest of places when tragedy struck. I could hear my heart beat pounding in my ears and it felt as if everyone around me could hear it too. Feeling quite ill, I knew something was wrong.
Within moments I collapsed on the floor of the hotel lobby in cardiac arrest. The scene could only be described as chaotic, with everyone in complete shock. By pure luck, the hotel security was trained with how to use a defibrillator, which is why I am here today. I shouldn’t be alive. I have cheated death and been given a second chance at life.
To say the times that followed this tragedy were horrifying would be an understatement. We returned home to Los Angeles to what seemed like endless doctors appointments, exploratory treatments, experimental procedures and still, loads of uncertainty. My parents’ strength was evident and I was in awe of their ability to gracefully weather these difficult times. Their steady calm helped me to cope with all of the craziness of the incident-their patience, perseverance and optimism always provided me hope.
My health issues created profound emotional, social and educational challenges that I had to manage on a daily basis. Until doctors could say with certainty that cardiac arrest wouldn’t reoccur, I was forced to carry around a portable AED or automated external defibrillator. It became cumbersome and hindered me from all activities including the simple pleasure of taking a walk by myself.
In 2011, I underwent surgery to have an ICD or internal cardiac defibrillator implanted in my chest next to my heart. This procedure replaced the need for having an external AED, which was a constant shadow and reminder of what could always happen to me. This device opened up new opportunities for me…before long I was back in the classroom, competing in the pool, and socializing with friends.
The difference modern technology has had on my life leaves me with a constant loss for words. I have grown up rather quickly. I’ve learned a lot from my experience. I’m no longer that happy go lucky kid who takes life for granted. I understand my days are not only precious and valuable, but also not infinite. With a keen sense of responsibility and purpose, I endeavor to be the best, moral character of myself. And I'm going to spend the rest of my life looking for ways to make my mark on this world. Going beyond just calling my grandparents daily or holding the door open for the next person, I plan on making a real difference in my community and in others around me.
I honestly believe there’s a reason why I'm here today on Earth and so I live each day like it’s my last because it really could be. To this day doctors cannot say with one hundred percent certainty why cardiac arrest occurred and whether or not it will happen again. However, this information no longer frightens me. I accept this fact as my reality and embrace it as a blessing and gift for my every day life is rich and full as a result.