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Christine couldn’t believe she was having a heart attack. She was too young. But her heart stopped four times and she credits the quick action of the healthcare providers who performed CPR. Here is Christine’s story.
I’m 38 now. Single. I live in Stamford CT. I grew up in Westchester County, graduated from Stanford University and have lived a lot of lives between Manhattan, Chicago & Charlotte. I’m the Marketing Director for a restaurant group and I’m an independent consultant and team leader with a premium anti-age skincare company (Rodan + Fields). My father says, if I’m not stressed, I’m bored. I over-analyze everything, I’m stubborn, I’m a procrastinator… And I often bite off more than I can chew because I don’t like to say, “no.” I’m a YES person and despite my party-habits, restaurant-hopping and jet-setting ways, I don’t do drugs. I’m no angel but drugs came up A LOT in the hospital with regards to heart attacks in younger people. That just wasn’t me.
On December 15th, I had gotten plenty of sleep, but I still felt tired. I stayed home and worked from bed and I allowed myself to fall asleep, twice. I had chicken noodle soup for lunch, even though I wasn’t hungry. I didn’t have breakfast, but I drank a ton of water and some OJ. On the horizon I had dinner plans with a college friend that I don’t see often. I didn’t know what to do about it. I kept telling myself that I was fine and that annoying colds like this don’t last long. Kate had hired a babysitter to watch her 3 boys. She was planning to take an Uber from New Canaan; she had marked her calendar. Last time I cancelled on her because of work. Not this time. At just a bit before 6PM, I got into the shower. I had just finished shampooing my hair when I started to cough. I started to condition my hair and became exhausted by the simple act of rinsing. I think that’s when a bit of anxiety set in. I mean, it’s just a shower! I stepped out and reached for a towel. I was too tired to dry myself off. I suddenly felt nauseous. I kneeled down beside the toilet and threw up. I had only had chicken soup, so there wasn’t much to get out. I got up and staggered to my bedroom. I lied down on the bed, soaking wet. No one does that unless something is seriously wrong, right?! I looked up at the ceiling and basically said, “get your sh*t together.” I tried to center myself and focus on breathing. I thought about what I could do next to make myself feel better and I had no answers. The idea of putting clothing on seemed impossible. I thought about calling a few friends. Maybe one of them could drive me to the hospital? I lay there thinking, NO, I need to call an ambulance… BUT this is probably nothing… The ambulance will be expensive… And all of my neighbors are going to see me get rolled out!
Not once did I think heart attack. I reached for my phone, while lying on my back. I called my mom.
Mom: Hello there! (Happy voice)
CW: Mom, I think I’m going to call 911.
Mom: (Gasp) What’s wrong? (Scared voice)
CW: It hurts to breathe.
Mom: Hang-up. Call 911. We’re on our way!
I hung up and started to cry. Clearly I was looking for one person to agree with me in order to make that call… I called 911 at 6:17PM. My call with the 911 dispatcher lasted only a minute, but in my memory it lasted 5. 10? The firefighters were the first to arrive to the scene. They asked me questions about drugs and alcohol. They asked me about what I’d eaten. They checked my pulse and tried to keep me calm. The more calm they wanted me to be, the less calm I became. They seemed to think it was an anxiety attack, and while I didn’t disagree, why did it have to hurt so much? They put a portable plastic breathing thing over my mouth and made me breath in and out into the plastic bag. It was uncomfortable and it wasn’t helping my chest. The EMT’s arrived about 5 or so minutes behind the firemen. It was a man and a woman and they brought in a stretcher. The woman took charge. She asked the same questions that the firemen asked. She told me to calm down and breathe. Once I was on the stretcher, I told them all that I thought I was going to throw up again. I did.
The team wrapped a sheet around me and we were ready to roll. “Can you grab my wallet. And the two phones by the bed.” I heard someone say, “If you have two phones, no wonder you’re so stressed.” Outside I was FREEZING. Inside the ambulance I thought about my crazy crime drama TV show. The sirens sounded and I felt every bump in the road as we made our way across town. I began speaking in gibberish (they say) and then my heart stopped. That’s everything I remember. I went into cardiac arrest just as we were pulling up to the hospital. There was little time for planning. They raced me inside and started CPR again in the hallway. Between 7:04PM and 7:20PM is one big question mark. My heart stopped four times. I almost didn’t make it. 16 minutes of trying to bring me back to life — while my parents waited down the hall not knowing I had even arrived. I did not see a bright light and turn around, but I did wake up and see all of the doctors and nurses standing over me, shouting!
The counting, the pressure on my chest… “Stay with me!” At one point this feisty girl couldn’t take the pain so she started swatting at the person doing compressions. It was all hands on deck and not another body could fit into that room. Today I am doing well and I’m grateful for each person who was there to save my life!