It happened suddenly, as Vtac does, at 11:00pm on Wednesday night.
Serena noticed it happening, I ran upstairs, found her grey and unresponsive, and started CPR immediately, while Serena and Rhiannon called 911. I continued CPR for around 13 minutes (documented by the emergency call to ambulance arrival time) until EMS arrived.
As we waited, Serena kept a look out for the ambulance, Holden held open Leigh’s jaw to help keep her from clenching down further, to allow breaths to enter, Rhiannon kept count and provided some relief, Rio slept peacefully in his room unaware of the crisis occurring upstairs, while I continued compressions not willing to give up. We knew of Leigh’s congenital heart defects: mitral valve prolapse, arrhythmias and atrial-septal defect, but we had for years monitored closely the need for valve repair and other procedures and never expected her to go into sudden cardiac arrest.
When EMS arrived they found no pulse, which made sense given the vtac, and shortly after delivered defibrillation, which reestablished the electrical impulses in her heart. The heart was stunned from the Vtac and was unable to really resume pumping, so they continued compressions while still prepping her for delivery to the hospital.
At the local emergency room after they did the first EKG, flight for life was ordered from Glenwood Springs, CO to Grand Junction, CO., St. Mary's, since that is the closest cardiac surgical center. They gave her meds to raise her blood pressure, which was dismally low, and meds to stabilize to increase her heart strength to raise the blood discharge ratio.
After a visit to the catheter lab, and an iodine imaging procedure they discovered that the valve was in the same condition as before the incident and decided that emergency surgery was not going to be necessary. This was the first of the sequence of good news that still continues today. They installed a balloon via her femoral artery to assist the weak heart, and put her on a ventilator to assist the breathing since she aspirated some blood from her bitten tongue and possibly some stomach contents.
They took her in the chopper to Grand Junction, while the kids and I went back to the house, packed some light things, grabbed the sleeping Rio from the neighbors and drove to the hospital...
-Theodore Kauffman, Leigh’s husband