When Connie Snell and her husband Jay adopted a stray pit bull puppy, Connie had a feeling that the newfound friendship was meant to be.
"I always said that this dog is here for a reason," Connie remembered recently, "I said ‘some day, she is going to save our lives.’"
That day came on December 27, 2002, a lazy Sunday morning for the couple and the pet they had dubbed "Shuggy" who—along with two neighborhood EMTs who arrived on the scene in minutes with a lifesaving AED—became an instant hero. That morning, Connie got up about 7 a.m. and headed for the computer for some electronic solitaire before breakfast. Jay was already awake and reading the newspaper in the living room with Shuggy at his feet.
Before long, Connie says, she got sleepy again and went back to bed. When Shuggy went into the bedroom to investigate, the pup sensed a problem and began to howl. Jay came in to see what the fuss was about and he found his wife motionless on the bed, tongue out, eyes rolled back in her head with her skin beginning to take on a purplish tint. Connie had become a victim of Sudden Cardiac Arrest, possibly brought on by damage from congestive heart failure following several rounds of chemotherapy after she had been diagnosed with breast cancer 10 years earlier.
When Jay couldn’t get a pulse, his old military training kicked in and he began to administer CPR. When that didn't work, he called 9-1-1 and the EMTs responded within minutes, shocked Connie twice with an AED and got her to the hospital. There, her family was told her only chance of survival was to cool her body temperature with hypothermia therapy.
After three days in the cold and three more in a coma, Connie was back, showing no signs of the brain damage her family was told to expect.
Ironically, the treatment that saved Connie Snell’s life had its genesis in a project that was developed by her father, a former chief surgeon at the Office of Naval Research in Chicago and one of the leading authorities on hibernation.
"My dad always said that someday we are going to see people hibernate," Connie said. "His research saved his daughter's life."
That and the foresight to provide a home to a pitiful stray.
- A.J. Caliendo