I Had No Time to React

I Had No Time to React

Patti Farrell, Milwaukee, WI – 61 at time of event (2013)

Patti Farrell and familyPatti Farrell had always been very healthy, but lately had been experiencing increasing shortness of breath and stomach aches. While shopping at Target, the 61-year-old could hardly breathe and the pain was so intense she had to rest in her car. Her daughter-in-law arrived and took Patti to the hospital, where doctors discovered fluid in her lungs and diagnosed Patti with non-ischemic cardiomyopathy. 

“I’d always been very active. I felt like my wings were clipped,” Patti said of finding out she had a heart condition. A normal “ejection fraction” – a measure of how efficiently the heart is pumping – is over 50%. Patti’s ejection fraction measured  just 19%, putting her at high risk for sudden cardiac arrest (SCA). Before she could leave the hospital, Patti was prescribed a LifeVest wearable defibrillator for protection from SCA.

She was instructed to wear the LifeVest 24 hours a day – taking it off only for a short shower. It would continuously monitor her heart, and if it detected a life-threatening heart rhythm, the device would deliver a treatment shock that could save her life. “The whole episode made me take my condition seriously. I had to go on a different diet and a different exercise regimen. Everything changed. I had to be a lot more careful, but the one thing the doctor stressed emphatically was to leave the LifeVest on,” commented Patti. 

Patti and her entire family soon found comfort in the LifeVest. Every day, her daughter-in-law would check in to make sure Patti was wearing the LifeVest and changing the battery. Her 9-year-old grandson was worried, but Patti explained, “This is going to keep Grandma safe. It’s my security blanket.”

“I was actually relieved, because I felt like I had some protection,” commented Patti. About two months later, she would need it. On Memorial Day morning, Patti went downstairs to do the laundry. As she walked back up the steps, she started to feel dizzy and sat down on the couch. Her husband Mike looked at her and said, “What’s wrong?” Patti responded, “I don’t feel well.” That’s the last thing she remembers.

“I had no time to react.” Patti had abruptly lost consciousness as she experienced a sudden cardiac arrest. Her heart had spiked into a dangerous, rapid rhythm called “ventricular fibrillation,” which is fatal if not treated within minutes. Patti’s LifeVest detected the life-threatening arrhythmia, and in less than one minute, it delivered a treatment shock that restored a normal heart rhythm and saved her life. When she awoke moments later, her husband, Mike, was already on the phone calling 911. Patti did not remember the treatment, but recalls that upon regaining consciousness she felt better than she had in days.

Patti was admitted to the hospital later that day, and she ultimately received an implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD) for long-term protection. Looking back, Patti realized how narrowly she survived: “Without the LifeVest, I would have died. There’s no question. The paramedics would never have gotten there in time.”

Since being saved by the LifeVest, Patti has a new perspective: “A lot of people tread through life, but I found out it’s something you can’t take for granted. Life is short. It can end at any minute.” Patti has been enjoying spending more time with her six grandchildren – three of whom she babysits on a regular basis. Her 9-year-old grandson likes playing football, and they’ve even started throwing the ball back and forth as she continues to recover.

“I just want to spend more time with family and friends. My eyes are open to everything that’s important,” commented Patti. She’s incredibly appreciative of the second chance she’s been given. When reflecting on what the LifeVest means to her, she says it simply: “It’s the difference between life and death.”


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The mission of the Sudden Cardiac Arrest (SCA) Foundation is to prevent death and disability from sudden cardiac arrest. The vision of the SCA Foundation is to increase awareness about sudden cardiac arrest and influence attitudinal and behavioral changes that will reduce mortality and morbidity from SCA.

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