An argument could be made for saying that Melanie and the American Heart Association have been together since birth. Melanie’s story begins with a congenital heart defect, followed by a childhood spent with doctors both treating and studying her condition, being instrumental to the development of the cardiac sonogram, and on into a life filled with the realities of living with heart disease. What is most amazing about Melanie is not her experience, but her drive. Before moving to Las Vegas and becoming an active volunteer with the Las Vegas American Heart Association, she was in Reno, NV giving the same level of time and passion to the critical mission that saves lives – hers and many others’. She has worked on initiatives from fundraising and events to state and federal advocacy, and she has played a critical role in helping us to achieve success with our CPR in Schools initiative. She is a consistent contributor to the AHA Survivor Blog where she shares more about her story and her why.
On June 15, 2013 I suddenly collapsed at home while standing next to my husband. He was hanging a picture and I was helping spot it for him. I’m told that is what happened, because I have no recollection of it.
I was told that I suffered a Cardiac Arrest, I turned blue and collapsed right next to my husband who immediately took action and performed Hands Only CPR while on the phone with 911. He took a few seconds to grab his phone and unlock the front door and then he performed CPR until the paramedics arrived.
We live very close to a hospital and a Fire Station which is right next door. They arrived in under 4 minutes and took charge of the situation. They continued life saving measures including shocking me 8 times without success. I was placed on the CPR Assist Device while they transferred me to the emergency room at the hospital about a mile away.
I was later told that they were ready to call time of death in the Emergency Room as I had been without a heartbeat for about 45 minutes. That is when my heart started beating again on its own. At some point I was transferred upstairs and they treated me with Therapeutic Hypothermia (chilled) to increase the chance that I would wake up and also reduce brain damage.
Two days after I was admitted they removed the breathing tube and woke me up slowly. I had no recollection of what had happened or how long I had been in the hospital. I was in the Hospital for 10 days and very lucky to walk out. It was a slow recovery and continued months after I left the hospital.
Although I have had 5 open heart surgeries and heart problems are certainly not new to me, this was a very unexpected and scary situation for me and my family. A few months later my pacemaker was upgraded to an AICD so if this happens again I have my own internal shocking device.
This AICD device actually activated one afternoon in August of 2016 and saved my life.
I’m grateful every day for the technological advances that have kept me alive for 52 years and counting and for my husband who saved me by knowing CPR. Imagine if someone you loved needed your help and you didn’t know what to do…..how could you live with that?