Posted on 10/09/2008

Sarah Zammett, Matoaca, VA, – 42 at time of event (2008)

Sarah ZammettSarah was saved in a house of God. It was her family’s church for generations; in fact her Great Grandfather founded the church in the 1880s. Sarah and her daughters were attending the first service that Sunday morning in April. “It was after the service, most everyone had gone, and my girls had gone on to Sunday school.” Sarah said she had stayed behind to discuss a new software program they were using for the services. “We were just standing around talking and I dropped.” Her pastor, who has many years experience as an EMT, and the local coach who teaches CPR, did not hesitate to act. Someone else called 9-1-1.

Sarah’s daughters were safe in Sunday school, and didn’t know, even when the street filled with fire-trucks, police cars and ambulances. Their father knew, but only once he entered the church, and saw Sarah on the floor with EMTs busily attending to her. One, two, three times they shocked her. They also inserted a catheter into her femoral artery and chilled her body to prevent brain damage. Sarah knows nothing about any of it. “It feels like a story about someone else,” Sarah said, although she does have her daughter’s cell-phone photo of her in ICU, and an ICD in her shoulder.

A few years earlier Sarah had developed an arrhythmia, just after her second daughter was born. “It was like my heart was missing a beat,” Sarah explained. Her gynecologist had detected it and referred her to a cardiologist who prescribed a beta-blocker. “They didn’t seem to be concerned about it, so I wasn’t concerned.” The cardiologist did have a sense of humor. “He called it an inconvenient beat!” Sarah said with a laugh. Sarah seemed a little wistful as she described the results of all the subsequent cardiac tests. “The plumbing of my heart was wonderful!” Despite having no conclusive reason for her collapse, Sarah does feel more educated. “Several months ago, I could not have told you the difference between a cardiac arrest, a heart attack, heart failure or any of that.”

“God wasn’t ready to take me, yet.” Sarah said with confidence. “Had He been ready for me to go, then the right people wouldn’t have been in the right place. It could’ve just as easily happened in the car driving to church.” She senses a divine presence in her save. “I was where I was supposed to be, when I was supposed to be there.” Now, Sarah also has medical technology to rely upon. “Having a three year-old with sharp elbows doesn’t help, but she knows that ‘Mommy has a boo-boo right there’.” Sarah said in relation to the recovery from her ICD implant surgery. “I’d rather have it and not need it, than not have it…”

“I had a dream one night, and I woke up thinking it had gone off.” Sarah said the dream was so vivid and realistic she was certain her ICD had fired. “Someone had taken my girls from me, and I was trying to get them back. They shot me with a Taser-gun.” She said it felt like a shock from an electrical outlet. “It was that feeling, but right in the center of my chest.” However, it was just a dream. Sarah called the hospital and they confirmed the device had not discharged.

Sarah’s eldest daughter is chauffeuring her mother around, since Sarah is not allowed to drive for several months. “I think we’ve changed roles,” Sarah said with humor. When asked if her daughter enjoyed this new responsibility, Sarah promptly replied “Not all the time, No.”

Sarah takes more time for herself nowadays. “I’ve learned to say ‘no’ to things. They think stress may have been a factor [in her arrest], trying to do too much. I’ve had to slow down a little bit.” She is, however, thinking of establishing a local ICD support group, since her clients are always saying to her “You know, I have a friend that went through that,” when she describes her ordeal.

-Jeremy Whitehead