Posted by SCAFoundation on 05/06/2015
Jamie LaLonde in a fashion show sponsored by Boston Scientific in February 2015 at Mall of America
Jamie LaLonde in a fashion show sponsored by Boston Scientific in February 2015 at Mall of America

My name is Jamie LaLonde. I am 23 years old and at 18, I suffered a sudden cardiac arrest while working in the Mall of America.

My shift at Forever 21 had just started when I told my boss I wasn’t feeling well and asked to take my break early, which was unusual for me to do. After originally saying no, she said it was okay. While on my way to the break room, where I would have been alone, I collapsed and started having what looked like a seizure. None of my co-workers or customers knew what to do in that situation, so they called Mall Security and no one touched me for five minutes. When the security guard arrived, he recognized I was in cardiac arrest and immediately began CPR. Two minutes later, the Bloomington Police Department arrived with an AED. I was shocked twice before my heart went back in to a normal rhythm and was taken to Fairview Southdale Hospital.

When I arrived at Fairview they put me in to a medically induced coma and lowered my body temperature. They woke me up two days later, which happened to be Easter Sunday, and tried to explain what happened to me. They told me I had suffered a sudden cardiac arrest and tried to explain the best they could, but I remember thinking cardiac arrest was just the doctor term or fancy way of saying I had a heart attack because I hadn’t heard “cardiac arrest” before.

They decided to transfer me to the University of Minnesota for testing to try to determine the cause. Once I got there and the tests started, I realized a few things. First, there was a lot of talking about me...but not really a lot of talking to me, if that makes sense. Second, it became very clear I really didn’t understand what a cardiac arrest was. So while my doctors were working to figure out why it happened, I started to look into what happened.

Through my research I learned what a cardiac arrest is, what can cause it, and that the survival rate is about 10 percent. I also learned that it can happen to anyone and the only way to save someone in cardiac arrest is CPR and use of an AED. That’s when I pictured myself collapsed on the floor of Forever 21, not breathing and no one doing anything. I started to get myself a little worked up and upset thinking about it, until I pictured someone else on the floor. Would I have known what to do? No. I immediately flashed back to my sophomore year of high school, sitting in health class with a CPR dummy on the table in front of me, while our teacher played a video and I was texting through the whole thing. If my teacher had passed out a quiz afterwards, I would have failed.

I remember learning about the dangers of drugs and alcohol at least once every semester during school, not just once a year in health class like when we learned about heart disease. While I agree that it’s very important to teach kids that drugs and alcohol can kill, why not teach them how to save lives too? I feel it’s equally important to show them how to use the AED in they see in the hallway every day, but have no idea what it’s for, or teach them what to do if someone were to collapse during softball practice.

The cause for my SCA was never determined and I was given an ICD in case it happens again. A cardiac arrest can happen to 100% of the population, but right now only about 10% of victims survive. The key is teaching people what to when someone collapses. I feel so lucky to have been saved and to have been able to use my story to help the American Heart Association pass a bill that makes CPR training a graduation requirement in Minnesota, which started in 2014.

I still keep in close contact with my heroes from the Mall and I thank God for them every day because I know how lucky I am to be alive. If you don’t already know it, please take 15 minutes to learn hands-only CPR. 

-Jamie LaLonde