Posted by ajennison on 02/28/2012
Anne Jennison, Lee, NH – 55 at time of event (2010)
Anne Jennison, Lee, NH – 55 at time of event (2010)

It was exam time, a stressful period for teachers as well as students. Anne had survived the 50-minute commute and was in her second class of the morning when she died. She was sitting at her desk while the high school freshmen finished their tests. Her face hit the table top and a couple of alert students rushed over to stop Anne from falling off her chair. They could see she was not conscious.

Next door was the nurses station and RN Liz Tiner came rushing in to investigate. She cleared the room and...

“She started what my cardiologist called ‘amazingly good CPR’, which means that my entire front was covered in bruises,” Anne lamented.

She does not rue the use of the school AED and to this day ascribes her full recovery to the speed and precision of Liz and her staff.

9-1-1 was called and the EMTs crossed the state line to get Anne to the hospital ASAP. Three days of induced coma had Anne wake to see her family in the ICU late Friday. She immediately took pen and paper to scribble out the questions. What had happened to her students? Everyone breathed a sigh of relief. Anne was cognitively sound.

“I didn’t know [then] the statistics about survival, much less survival with my brain intact!” Anne said. “That’s when I started to appreciate [the] miraculous event, the timing. It didn’t happen in my car on the way to work, or when I was on my own that morning [before classes]. And I would’ve been on my own all afternoon! There was this very slender window of time when people could have helped me,” Anne exclaimed.

Her first day of consciousness was a fuzzy time, people kept appearing and disappearing, she awoke and fell back to sleep constantly. Eventually Anne understood why she was there, although she could hardly believe the story. She had no blockages, no heart disease, nothing seemed wrong. Except for the sudden cardiac arrest that is.

This was Anne’s second hospitalization ever, and it was turning out eerily similar to that other time, when she had bilateral knee replacement. Another man-made, metal, device was to be inserted into her body, making her feel as though she was a bionic woman.
“It’s a little creepy, and took a lot to make peace with it. You know, a bit Star Trekish, with the Borg taking over me!” Anne joked.

New Hampshire has a state ban on SCA survivors driving for six months, which meant Anne had a forced sabbatical. This gave her time to deal with the emotional trauma, and research the endless questions; what, why and how come? She has decided what's important, and invests her time in herself these days, not spending or wasting it. She comes first these days.

The prognosis? Anne had caught the H1N1 flu months earlier, and it may have weakened her heart muscle creating an electrical disturbance resulting in her cardiac arrest. Oh, and six weeks later Anne awoke with total hearing loss in the left ear, preceded by nausea and dizziness. The audiologist attributed it to the same virus attack.

“H1N1 can kill you and make you deaf. I’ll never joke about Swine flu again!” Anne said with mirth.

-Jeremy Whitehead