Survivor Stories

Survivor Stories

A Heart Too Good to Die

Carolyn Whitehead –Norwich, CT – 47 at the time of the event (October, 2002)

Carolyn WhiteheadThe nation’s #1 serial killer strikes every few minutes, and whilst not gruesome, the result is frightening carnage.

Carolyn Whitehead was the lucky one in 20 who did not die. There was nothing wrong with Carolyn’s heart, then or now, however she does suffer from a common and non-threatening condition.

Shock Number Five Kept Him Alive

Dick Bylund – St. Louis, MO – 50 at the time of the event (1993)

Sometimes it’s better to break the rules. If a young paramedic in Freemont, CA, had followed procedures to the letter, Dick Bylund wouldn’t be alive today.

Dick was attending his son’s football game at Mission High School in Freemont when he collapsed, a victim of sudden cardiac arrest (SCA). Two nurses on the scene administered CPR, while a third fan ran to a nearby house to call 911, this being a time before everyone had a cell phone. Fire department personnel arrived within minutes, carrying a manual defibrillator.

What About “Going Toward the Light”?

A.J. Caliendo – Pittsburgh, PA – 49 at the time of the event (June 2, 1999)

A.J. Caliendo’s two biggest complaints about his sudden cardiac arrest (SCA) episode are that he put in a lot of hard hours rehearsing his first ever community theater play only to be sidelined after one performance, and that he feels he was cheated out of that long tunnel with the bright light on the day when the world went black for about 26 hours.

Police Officer Saves Funeral Worker

Paul Beauregard – Plainstown, NH – 69 at the time of the event (May 2004)

The story of Paul Beauregard’s sudden cardiac arrest could almost qualify as a macabre Halloween tale.

Paul was working part time for a Plainstown, NH funeral director. He was out on a job and had just finished placing the body in a hearse when he walked back to the curb to talk to a police officer who was on the scene. It was then that everything went black and the 69-year-old retired section manager for Raytheon collapsed at the scene.

Fortunately, the officer had an AED in his cruiser and went to work getting Paul’s heart back into a steady rhythm before he was taken by ambulance to the hospital.

“That’s the only reason I was saved,” Paul said, “because (the police) were there and they had a defibrillator.”

A Shock in Time Makes All the Difference

Barbara Tibbitts - Sun City West, AZ - 69 at the time of the event (11/22/99)

Barbara Tibbitts with her great grandchildren

No pun intended, but when Barbara Tibbitts suffered sudden cardiac arrest and had to be revived by fire department personnel with an automated external defibrillator (AED) on November 11, 1999, it came as quite a shock.

"Even at 69, I was in fantastic physical shape," Barbara said, noting that she was regularly tap dancing and taking jazzercize classes at the time of the event. “The doctor still says I have the heart of a 40-year-old. It was just the (heart's) timing that went wrong.”

Rob Elliot: Aspiring Trendsetter

Rob Elliot - San Francisco - 45 at the time of the event (5/27/03)

On May 27, 2003, Rob Elliot became a trendsetter, but it just may be that others will no longer be able to follow that trend.

School's Foresight Saves Referee

Sam Sangetta - Olathe, KS - 58 at the time of the event (January 31, 2003)

Sam Sangetta never realized that he had a flair for the dramatic, but when he suffered Sudden Cardiac Arrest on January 31, 2003, he did so before a near sellout crowd.

While fans waited for the start of the second half of a high school basketball game, referee Sam came out onto the floor and was waiting for the teams to emerge from their locker rooms when, according to several eyewitness accounts, he hit the floor hard.

"People told me my knees never buckled," said Sam who, like most SCA victims remembers nothing about the event, "I just went straight back."

Pit Bull To The Rescue

Connie Snell - Austin, TX - 56 at the time of the event (December 27, 2002)

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.

A Letter from SCA Survivor, Mari Ann Wearda of Sheffield Iowa

Hi to all,

This morning I was driving to work when I suddenly realized that I was at the stoplight where four years ago today I narrowly escaped death. I was the victim of an SCA, and if not for the grace of God and an AED, I would not be here today.

I try not to preach (really!), but each and every one of you that I am sending this to I hold dear in my heart. I know it doesn't always happen to the other guy. I know the importance of knowing what your blood pressure and cholesterol is. I know how dangerous smoking is. I know how dangerous stress is. If you don't know these things, please find out.

Jim Baum: Because He Cared About His Neighbors, He Survived Sudden Cardiac Arrest

Jim Baum is a good neighbor. After seeing AEDs mounted in the Chicago O’Hare Airport, he spoke to a physician friend about them. Jim decided that he should have a device in each of his three homes because the neighbors in each location were elderly.

The defibrillators Jim ordered arrived in October 2003 and sat in the corner in their boxes for a month or so. While packing to go to their condominium in Puerta Vallarta for Thanksgiving, Jim’s wife Nancy threw one of the boxes in their suitcase and didn’t give it much more thought.

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