Survivor Stories

Survivor Stories

Juddson Rupp's Story

It started like any other day, but I decided to exercise first thing that
 Thursday morning. At 7 a.m., my heart stopped pumping blood while I was
exercising at the YMCA, and I nearly died. Before my heart went into
 ventricular fibrillation, I was the picture of health. Although I had a
pre-existing heart condition known as hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, or
"Athlete's Heart," I had never been on any medication. I was always active
in the gym and played football throughout my youth and then at the
University of Virginia.

Eric Vogen's Story

 On Father's Day 2007, I fell down dead just feet from the finish line of
the Latta Plantation Triathlon. I don't mean that I was exhausted. I mean
my heart stopped beating. An EMT, one of eight who worked to revive me,
recalls my last breath. I only remember a few seconds of dizziness and then

Soccer Star or Miss America?

Michaela Gagne, Falls River, MA – 15 at time of event (1998)

Miss Massachusetts As a teenager Michaela was not thinking about crowns and gowns. She preferred shorts and boots—soccer boots that is. Despite her ambition to be a Division 1 player Michaela was crowned Miss Massachusetts in 2006 and went on to compete for the title of Miss America 2007. Her platform issue was Heart Health: Listen, Learn, and Live. How is it that a self-confessed tomboy suddenly started entering beauty pageants?

A Walk to Work Ends With a Miracle

Michael McKee, Minneapolis, MN – 58 at time of event (2008)

Michael McKee

Michael struggles to maintain a healthy weight. He is committed to it. So much so that he walks the four miles or so to work and back each day. It’s quite pleasant, along the Mississippi river, past the University of Minnesota, and the University Hospital. “It was a morning like any other. I don’t remember any of the details.” Michael explained that the river is about 3/4 mile from home, and he was found on the river walk by a doctor riding to work on his bicycle.

“Initially, it was reported that he saw me go down, gave me CPR until the ambulance got there,” Michael said mysteriously. He understands the EMTs had to shock him several times to get a rhythm started, and transported him to the Hennepin County Medical Center. Since it was classified as a witnessed arrest this Level 1 Trauma Centre treated him with the hyperthermia protocol.

She’s Not Joking

Anne Duffy, Moorestown, NJ – 37 at time of event (2007)

It was a stressful week in early December, and their son’s fifth birthday party had taken it’s toll. They were relaxing on the sofa together, after dinner. Anne felt dizzy and some nausea. She started to say “I think I’m going to pass out,” but didn’t get that far. David felt her fall into his lap.
“He thought I was joking around. He’d been teasing me that I had been really tired for a couple of weeks before. We were going to rent a movie or something.” But Anne was not kidding around, she was dying.

A Coach With a New Career

Dale Wakasugi, St Paul, MN – 49 at time of event (2007)

It all started in Seattle sometime in 1995. Dale was a victim of his heredity, and not a traditional Japanese one. Working in the pharmaceutical industry he was only 36 years old, and yet he suffered a heart attack. Technically known as an MI (Myocardial Infarction) it was caused by a blockage of his LAD (Left Anterior Descending artery). He had been a very active, non-drinker, non-smoker who played college baseball. The blockage wasn’t severe enough to warrant a stent, so diet and exercise were prescribed. Dale moved to Minnesota for his job and regularly visited his cardiologist, undergoing annual stress tests which he passed every time.

Let Me Go By Myself First

Kim Zalepa, Interlaken, NJ – 40 at time of event (2008)

Kim Zalepa It was their first skiing trip with the kids. Kim was feeling nervous, almost like a novice, since she hadn’t been skiing for over a decade. They’d had two daughters in eight years and felt it was time to enjoy a day in the snow that March. Kim and her husband,Todd, took the girls to Shawnee mountain in Pennsylvania for what they thought would be a day trip.

An Abrupt End To Lunch

Larry Osborn, Pueblo, CO – 60 at time of event (2008)

Every Monday they get together for a business related lunch. For fifteen years Larry had been a reliable lunch partner. But, on the third Monday of January, 2008 Larry walked out on them. He didn’t say anything, he just left. He got in the car and drove away. Then he crashed it into a parked truck, at around 30 mph. Lucky for him, someone saw it all and called 9-1-1.


Driveway Desperation

Rick Mylin, Warsaw, IN – 45 at time of event (2008)

A big box hardware store was nearly the end of Rick. It was a Saturday afternoon, and while RIck doesn’t remember anything about it, his wife said she’d called him to ask if he was OK. He’d indicated earlier that he wasn’t feeling well. Jo Lynn noticed Rick sounded odd.
“She asked all the questions, ‘pain here, pain there’ but the only thing I said was it felt like I’d pulled a muscle in my shoulder.” She suggested he come home and take a rest. Good thing he did.

Pulled Out The Whistle

Drew White, Michigan City, IN – 29 at time of event (2007)

Drew White

I was asked by a friend in the summer of 2007 if I might be interested in officiating YMCA basketball games over the winter. Not having officiated a basketball game since I was in college over seven years ago, I thought about it and thought it might be fun to pull out the whistle and have a go at it. The exercise, not to mention the money, would be good for me.

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