The Freshest Breath Of All

The Freshest Breath Of All

Tara Heinle, Rapid City, SD – 34 at time of event (2008)

Tara & Todd Heinle Tara and her husband, Todd, were taking a little time out after their summer vacation, and prior to the in-laws arriving for a visit. Luckily, they were at home that Wednesday morning.
Tara had just brushed her teeth, and was preparing for the morning shower. There was a noise, and her husband asked “What fell?” He got no answer and proceeded to investigate. Todd saw Tara on the floor of the bathroom. She had a certain look about her, and despite her being his wife, the look was familiar to him.
“My husband is a police officer and he said, ‘I’ve seen that look before,” and he started CPR right away.” First, he called 9-1-1.

Todd may have been more enthusiastic than the other times he’s performed CPR, and Tara can attest to the strength of his compressions. Her ribs were sore for a month or more. Understandably, this was an unusual situation.
“He said it was the freshest breath of all of them,” Tara said with just a hint of humility.

It took around eight minutes for the EMTs to arrive, and they had to administer five shocks to get Tara’s heart beating again. One of the paramedics is married to a work colleague of Tara’s and was surprised to see her in this perilous state. “As soon as I came home from the hospital, he stopped by several times, because he needed to see me, not the person he saw laying on the floor!” Tara said.

She received hypothermia treatment in the hospital, which would help prevent damage to her brain from the lack of circulation. One of the hospital nurses later told Tara that, “Everything went the way is was supposed to.” And Tara is proof of that point. With only around one out of twenty victims surviving out-of-hospital cardiac arrest, Tara is now a member of this unique and special group of people.

“Luck was on my side, that we both were on vacation that day at home. If I’d been at work, I don’t think I would’ve survived.” Tara said the office now has an AED, but did not before her arrest. “It would’ve been a longer response time, and I’m not sure [a stranger] would do the compressions hard enough. The emergency room nurses told me that I was lucky it was my husband [and] that he’d done CPR before. So it was done properly and how it needed to be,” she said carefully. “He knew he was probably hurting me, but he knew he had to do it.”
In addition to the stretched sternum and rib cartilage, Tara suffered a collapsed lung from the vigorous compressions. She doesn’t regret Todd’s actions in any way. Neither of them had any inkling that she was in danger of an arrest.

“I’d had PVCs* before, and non-sustained runs of tachycardia. But, this time it was sustained and they don’t know why,” Tara said. “I was told I’d have a better chance of winning the lottery than anything ever happening [to her heart rhythm].”
Tara explained that her event was the hardest emergency response Todd had experienced in his twenty years on the force. “He said he’ll never complain about their yearly CPR training again,” she said with chuckle.

Tara is looking forward to Christmas, and not just for the holiday festivities, since that is when she will be allowed drive the car again. Mt. Rushmore is not far away, but those presidential profiles will not be her first trip, the football stadium would have priority, or maybe the seasonal shopping sales. Either way, Tara has sorely missed the independence, and relishes the idea of not pre-arranging her travel needs every day.

-Jeremy Whitehead

* Premature Ventricular Contractions are a begin form of arrhythmia, and sometimes called palpitations. They are generally non-life threatening, and sometimes treated with beta blockers and other anti-arrhythmetic drugs to reduce the effects.

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