Pharmacological Fright

Pharmacological Fright

Michelle Bychowsky, Hoboken, NJ – 34 at time of event (2008)

Michelle Bychowsky

Michelle works for Novartis, she trained as a pharmacist, and now manages the drug supply for investigational trials. She was presenting during a meeting on that Wednesday, when she fell forward onto the table in front of her. 911 was called and several colleagues, who were also EMTs, hurried over to assist.
"I'd never met [them before] but now I keep in touch with them," she said.
The on-site health services found them doing two-person CPR, and quickly deployed the AED. Four shocks later her heart beat returned, but the paramedics also had to defibrillate her on the trip to hospital.
"Whenever there is an emergency situation they bring a defibrillator," Michelle said of the company's medical response team. "But now, because of my event, they have defibrillators in the building," she added.
"That day is a bit foggy, I remember everything up to that day and do remember parts of that day. But for me, the next thing I knew, I woke up in hospital and asked 'What happened?' 'What am I doing here?' " Michelle said with a laugh.
"Outside of a very sore chest, it was like nothing had happened!" Michelle said of her first day of consciousness the following Saturday. She had been placed in a therapeutic coma and her body cooled down with the Arctic Sun protocol*.

Her family were present and after she followed the doctor's request to move her fingers and toes they cheered. When it was clear she was able to recognize everybody the doctors breathed a sigh of relief. Alas, they had no clear understanding of why she had arrested in the first place. Michelle does suffer from MVP (Mitral Valve Prolapse) but her cardiologist couldn't see any irregular rhythms to forewarn her of a sudden cardiac arrest.
"I have a very active lifestyle, I go to the gym three or four times a week." Michelle said she had asked for cardiac rehabilitation to ensure she had no chance of causing another arrest. Although she did have one scare.
"There was one time. I was sitting at my desk and all of sudden I felt flush and my heart beat rapidly. I thought 'Oh my gosh, what's going to happen?' and it was like an out of body experience. She called her EP (Electrophysiologist) in a slight panic and he suggested she stop by for them to check the device.
"They said, 'No it's nothing, it didn't record anything!' " Michelle exclaimed.

Michelle is lucky to have had no further episodes, and thus no defibrillation therapy to date, "Knock on wood" she said.

Paul, her husband, is glad she is now protected by her ICD.
"But, he doesn't like to touch it or anything like that!" She quipped. "Like, sometimes I'll roll over and he can feel it and he'll say 'Aahh, get it off me!' " Michelle said in mirth. He's also very cautious about her health now, since the shock of getting the phone call and being told his wife had arrested that day, of unknown cause and just so suddenly.
"He carries his phone with him all the time now, even when working out!"


-Jeremy Whitehead

* This induced hypothermia treatment can slow down the body's reaction to trauma, and is designed to protect the patient’s brain from damage due to inflammation.

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