An Ironman After All

An Ironman After All

Scott Berens, Austin, TX – 27 at time of event (2008)

 Scott & Amanda BerensScott has the nickname ironman because he was continually partaking in extreme sports and athletic activities. Well, Scott can now truly live up to the name; he has a bionic addition. It was not by choice, and might even cramp his style a little, not that he would willingly let that happen of course. You see he recently had an ICD fitted under his pectoral muscle. It is there to protect him from another cardiac arrest. He is one of the lucky few to have survived his first one.

You would think that a man who plays Ultimate Frisbee* should have an extreme story about his arrest. Well, he doesn’t. He slept through the whole event, though his equally athletic wife, Amanda, did not. She woke at 3am to hear Scott gasping, and was terrified when he wouldn’t wake up. He was just a dead weight on the bed. She called 9-1-1 and they talked her through the CPR while the EMTs were dispatched. Amanda was told to push hard and fast on Scott’s chest. Three hundred times, then one breath followed by another one hundred compressions per minute. She kept this going for twelve minutes until the EMTs arrived.

Once Scott was stabilized in the hospital, the physicians initially suspected a seizure, and the EEG did show left lobe suppression. “It was a completely arduous time for my wife and family to see me struggling to come out of a coma,” Scott said with some regret. “Each time they would sedate me and try again [later]. I think it was the fourth time, near the end of the day, that I came around and actually recognized a friend in the room.” Once it became apparent that Scott had no brain injury to explain the collapse, the diagnosis of sudden cardiac arrest was quickly made. Tests for cardiac enzymes were performed to confirm the diagnosis, and an electrophysiology study was scheduled.

An ICD was the solution, regardless of the results. “We only had one real choice. If it does happen again, then I want to have that insurance that this [ICD] will get me back on my feet without having to have CPR,” Scott said with a healthy dose of pragmatism. “The surgery went fine, and I went home the next day, and then I started piecing things together.”

Within three weeks he was jogging and felt confident he could return to being captain of the team. “I did a full stress test with a heart echo, and I went past 15 minutes at the highest incline. My heat rate never got above 172 beats per minute!” Scott said with pride. He cannot say the arrest has slowed him down, justifying that he was asleep when it happened. “Maybe it was just a fluke. Maybe I was having a crazy dream and my heart just stopped!” Scott’s cardiologist has a different opinion, and suggested that an arrest can happen at maximum exertion** as well as at rest.

“I’m trying to be realistic, but I want to get on with my life, and do what I used to do.” Scott and Amanda are not going to let it ruin their plans for an extended overseas adventure. They have been saving for two years to travel through Asia and continue westward to visit his family in France. Scott was on the edge of his seat when discussing the ramifications of his arrest and ICD implant with his doctor. “We’re fortunate to have a young and understanding cardiologist whose exact words were, ‘That sounds great! You should absolutely do that.’ He was delighted we had decided to go ahead and live our lives as planned,” Scott said. (update: Scott & Amanda are on that OS trip - see pics here )

“I’m very fortunate to be able to sit at home and have dinner with my wife. But, if I’m going to be greedy about it, I want to play Ultimate Frisbee; I want to travel the world; I want to go skiing still.” Scott sounded determined and eager, just as he must have been before… 

-Jeremy Whitehead

* A form of US style football using a Frisbee instead of a ball. This highly competitive game started in 1968 at Columbia High School in Maplewood, NJ. (See Scott playing here )

** Olympic athletes also belong to the “SCA club”.

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