Posted by SCAFoundation on 06/29/2022
Ed Kosiec and Sarah Van Roekel
Ed Kosiec and Sarah Van Roekel

“We have to have more people with compassion for each other when a situation happens and be willing to help.” These are the words of Ed Kosiec, a survivor of cardiac arrest with an amazing story.

On March 12, 2019, 51-year-old Ed had a typical morning: he trained for his fourth marathon, running 10 miles, and then did some hot yoga. That afternoon, he and his wife Holly went to Chick-Fil-A for a late lunch, and nothing seemed out of the ordinary. What happened next changed Ed’s life forever.

Unexpectedly, he started to feel extremely unusual, dizzy, and sweaty. He started to stand up, and then immediately collapsed. As Ed described it, “I was in cardiac arrest, but I wasn’t there.”

The moment Ed went into cardiac arrest, it was absolutely vital to begin CPR as soon as possible. There were 30 or 40 people in Chick-Fil-A that day. Out of all these people, only one knew CPR: Sarah Van Roekel. Ed calls Sarah his “guardian angel.” She was an 18-year-old high school student who was working at the restaurant that day, miraculously at the exact same time that Ed went into cardiac arrest. When Sarah saw what was happening, she sprung into action, giving Ed hands-only compressions until the paramedics arrived seven minutes later. Sarah was Ed Kosiec’s savior that day.

When the paramedics arrived, everyone in Chick-Fil-A gathered in the back of the room and started praying. The paramedics shocked Ed four times with an automated external defibrillator (AED) until his heart began functioning again. He woke up in the hospital the next day with no memory of what had happened. He decided to receive a doctor-recommended implantable cardioverter defibrillator, or ICD.

Ed returned to his normal life with a newly awakened spirit and refreshed perspective. As a realtor with flexible hours, it wasn’t too difficult to transition back to work. However, this isn’t always the case with survivors of cardiac arrest, so Ed considers himself very lucky. 

Since his cardiac arrest, Ed experienced many milestone events, including his daughter’s wedding. Ed’s faith was also strengthened immensely, and he described that he “felt such a calmness in my heart and sense of love that it’s changed me.” 

And so he wanted to do something more: he was going to dedicate his time to advocating for CPR training in the community. His first focus was on passing a law in Florida requiring high school students to receive CPR training. By sharing his story about a high school student saving him with CPR, Ed helped push for the law to pass. He traveled six hours multiple times—from Boynton Beach to Tallahassee—to give speeches because of his passion for CPR education. He stated that it meant everything to him to contribute to the change.

Later, Ed felt the need to contribute further, and so the Great 48 CPR Tour was born. Over the next several months, he traveled to every state (with the exception of Alaska and Hawaii), raising awareness of cardiac arrest and teaching CPR. 

Ed says, “People know they need to know CPR and they know they should go for training; they just won’t do it.” So, since people wouldn’t go to get CPR training, he decided to bring CPR training to the people. He taught on the street, at times using CPR manikins, because that little step might just save someone’s life. Ed traveled all over the country because of his dedication and changed many people’s lives along the way. He also learned so much from his experiences, saying, “There’s a lot of good going on in the world and there’s a lot of good people out there.” 

During this time, he also donated one AHA Anytime CPR Kit to either nonprofits or community outreach centers.

This year he continued the Great 48 CPR Tour, however he is not driving through the entire nation but rather asking organizations and other advocates to help promote hands-on training throughout their communities. Additionally, he is sending out 50 AHA Anytime CPR Kits out to nonprofits and community centers in every single state to help spread even more awareness. Ed plans to repeat this format every year going forward.

Ed focuses on the importance of CPR education for everyone especially during National CPR Awareness Week the first week of June. Last year he started “The Great Nationwide CPR Mission & March Rally,” which was repeated again this year. His goal is to bring heart advocates and organizations together as one in our nation’s capital at the National Mall -- a move that will help bring awareness to the entire country and the U.S. Government with a goal to promote laws that will help the entire nation. Next year’s dates are set for Friday, June 2nd & Saturday June 3rd, 2023 and Ed has already submitted permit applications to the National Park Service. 

His story is one of many incredible survivor stories that reveals just how crucial it is that everyone learns CPR.

By Sawyer May Reed