“Family is very important to me. Everyone knows I love family.” For as long as she could remember, 67-year-old Barbara Campbell hosted a weekly Sunday dinner for her four children and six grandchildren. In recent years, the tradition started to take a physical toll. Barbara was constantly exhausted and she would lose her breath just walking across the room. As she was preparing a meal one Sunday, she turned to her husband, Everett and said: “I can’t do this anymore.”
After seeing several different specialists over the next two years, a scan of Barbara’s lung exposed an unexpected problem with her heart. Within days, she had a catheterization, revealing a blockage in her left anterior coronary artery. Barbara had a stent placed in her artery, but her ejection fraction was only 20-30%, putting her at high risk for sudden cardiac arrest. A normal “ejection fraction” – a measure of how efficiently the heart is pumping – is over 50%. To protect her before she could leave the hospital, Barbara was prescribed a LifeVest wearable defibrillator.
“It was a shocker. It made me realize that something was seriously wrong with my heart,” Barbara said of receiving the LifeVest prescription from her physician. She received education on her condition from her physician and agreed to faithfully wearing the LifeVest – only removing it to bathe. It continuously monitored Barbara’s heart, and she felt comforted by the fact that, if it detected a life-threatening heart rhythm, the device would deliver a treatment shock that could save her life. Over time, the device became a part of her daily routine. “I was glad in a way. It made me feel secure knowing that I had it on – that it could help me.”
Three months later, Barbara was sound asleep at 4:30 am when she experienced a sudden cardiac arrest. Many sudden cardiac arrest victims pass away quietly into the night, but Barbara’s LifeVest detected the life-threatening arrhythmia, and in less than one minute, it delivered a treatment shock that restored her heart to a normal rhythm, saving her life. When Barbara awoke moments later, she had no idea that her life had just been saved. Everett, however, had witnessed the entire event and was stunned. He took Barbara to the local emergency room. After being monitored, she was transported to a major medical center, where she ultimately received an implantable defibrillator for long-term protection from sudden cardiac arrest.
Barbara’s family still comes to visit every Sunday, though preparing the meal is a tradition she’s gladly passed on to her four children. Since having her life saved by the LifeVest, those gatherings mean a little bit more. “They’ve realized what almost happened,” Barbara said. “Family was always special to us, but its extra special now.”
As Barbara looks forward to new memories, she reflects back on her experience with the LifeVest: “It may be a challenge to start with, but you have to look at the overall picture and know that the LifeVest can save your life, which it certainly did for me.”