Posted by BellaDolce on 05/15/2013
Kim Mendes, Charlotte, NC – 46 at time of event (2013)

Kim is an early riser. The alarm wakes her at 4:30am but she does like a little snooze before getting out of bed. This one time the snooze went longer than normal. Arnesto her husband heard a strange sound, he called out "Binky?", but when he looked over he saw Kim had her tongue between her teeth and wasn't breathing.He called 9-1-1 and started chest compressions immediately, right there on the bed. The EMTs pounded down the hall, past the apartment, but Arnesto heard them and called out. Once inside the bedroom they went to work. Six shocks and still no pulse.

"They came out [of the bedroom] and said, 'Well we're going to work on her a bit longer, but if we can't get a heart beat we're gonna have to pronounce her dead," Kim said without emotion.

Suffice to say, that wasn't necessary and Binky was transported to hospital with a faint heartbeat. There she was sedated and intubated, cooled and tested for brain function. The sedation worked, as did the ventilator and hypothermia treatment. But the brain scan came up negative.

"They did something called doll's eyes* that checks your brainstem," Kim said clearly. "The doctors just knew I was going to be brain dead, they just knew."

However that evening Kim started breathing on her own. And on Saturday she awoke.

"When I woke up I said, 'What happened?' and I guess I was combative. They wanted me to take meds–I wouldn't take them. I don't remember any of this stuff!" Kim was an RN for 11 years before she moved to Charlotte, and her daughter, Monique, is in medical school so they both know the procedures and terminology. Oh, and her ejection fraction** was only 10%. "Each day I woke up more and more and more. When I first woke up the doctors were amazed. They said 'We really really thought we were going to have a different conversation than this'. I was moving around and able to talk!" Kim exclaimed.

She received an ICD implant and was sent home. Next step is to schedule the regular cardiologist appointments and try to determine why she had a cardiac arrest early one Wednesday morning. Oh, and she is still not taking her meds, but this time because her blood pressure is too low. It's early days and there are endless blood tests in her future.

Arnesto stays up at night these days, until Binky wakes up and he feels confident he can stop watching her. "He's a nervous wreck! But it's [the ICD] there to save my life," Kim said. "When she got to the hospital she cried, but then she snapped out of it and said 'I'm gonna be strong my mother's going to be okay', and she stopped crying. That was it," Kim said of her daughter. It was clear that Monique is already the medical professional.

-Jeremy Whitehead

*oculocephalic response is a test of the integrity of brainstem function. If the movement of the eyes is in the opposite direction to that in which the head is moved it indicates that brain stem function is preserved. The term "fixed and dilated" also refers to brainstem issues.

**ejection fraction or EF, is a measure of heart function. It defines how well your heart is pumping out blood and often used in diagnosing and tracking heart failure. Normal range is between 55 and 70.