Posted by SCAFoundation on 05/05/2015
Beverly Buxareo, Pittsburgh, PA – 50 at time of event (2010)
Beverly Buxareo, Pittsburgh, PA – 50 at time of event (2010)

Survivors of sudden cardiac arrest (SCA) come in all shapes, sizes, ages and ethnic backgrounds. SCA, which some people call sudden cardiac death, has stricken people at work, at school, exercising, resting at home or even sleeping. The first word of the term tells anyone who hears it that there is rarely a warning for the devastation to come. The heart stops beating, the victim collapses and, unless help is given in the form of the administration of CPR and/or shocks by an automated external defibrillator, death occurs within minutes.

But all of those sufferers who were lucky enough to have had someone on the scene performing those life-saving procedures in the vital minutes after the arrest (or promptly call EMTs to do so) have one thing in common--immediate recall of the date of their arrest. That month, day and year are permanently imbedded in the minds of those survivors and most can even tell you the time of day of the event, even though few recall what happened to them and most have no memory of the time leading up to the arrest or the hours or days after.

So when Beverly Buxareo was asked when her event occurred, the answer was swift and sure--January 23, 2010. That was the Saturday when Beverly, then 50 years old, collapsed while walking on the trails at North Park, something she had routinely done several times a week for eight years.

“We had a warm spell, (that January) Beverly, an 18-year teacher at Vincentian Academy in Pittsburgh’s North Hills said in a recent interview.  “It was about 50 degrees. Normally, you can’t walk that time of year.”

Those unseasonable temperatures proved to be a blessing because more people were on the trail than would have been on a typically cold day in January. So it just so happened that Stefanie and Kevin Wozniak were running in the opposite direction, witnessed Beverly’s event, and helped save her life.

“(Stefanie) thought I had tripped or fallen,” said Beverly, repeating what others had told her about the couple’s response. When the Wozniaks realized that she was unconscious, Kevin yelled out asking if anyone knew how to administer CPR. That’s when another hero, “I think she was a nurse,” Beverly said, began the life-saving procedure until the EMS team arrived with an AED and shocked her “seven or eight times” before restoring a heartbeat. 

Beverly never did get the nurse’s name and several attempts to contact the woman failed.

“Apparently she did not want to be contacted,” Beverly mused. “She wants to be a silent hero.”       

But an anonymous angel is an angel nonetheless and Beverly will never forget what she did. “She beat the s--- out of me,” said the SCA survivor, remembering that her chest and ribs ached when she came out of her drug-induced coma some three days after her event, “but she saved my life.”

And Beverly wants everyone to know that that life is a healthy one. Although she has been dealing with a cardiac condition known as hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, a disease in which the heart muscle becomes abnormally thick, she maintains a healthy diet and exercises on a regular basis.

“It took a long time before I could even talk about (the cardiac arrest) she says. “I find it very difficult to think of myself as sickly.”

That is the point that Beverly wants people unfamiliar with SCA to know. To the uninitiated, the image of a person who suffers a cardiac episode is an obese individual who watches TV 12 hours a day and ingests a regular diet of snacks and fast food. But while we all know that those bad habits can increase the chance of heart disease, they are by no means the only condition under which sudden cardiac death will occur. We all must be prepared to deal with such an event if we suffer or witness it.  Which brings up another “must” that Beverly points out.

“We have to count on each other,” she said, emphasizing the need for more people to be trained in CPR and the use of AEDs.

To that end, Beverly has embarked on a crusade to have AEDs placed in her school. She is facing, as is often the case, delays brought on by seemingly endless debate about the issue. Still, she is not deterred.

“That’s my goal,” she says firmly about her efforts. And somehow you get the feeling that that goal will be met. 

-A.J. Caliendo


Survivor Stories