In the United States 60% to 80% of people who have experienced a cardiac arrest outside of the hospital die before getting there. One Colorado woman was able to defeat the odds thanks to a crew of South Metro Fire paramedics who not only helped her survive her third heart attack but saved her life.
For the first time since August, Jennifer Harlan was reunited with the group of paramedics who helped save her life at Sky Ridge Medical Center in Lone Tree.
Harlan is a cardiac nurse at Rose Medical Center and works in the cardiac unit. She is beyond grateful for the team of paramedics who helped save her life after experiencing her third heart attack.
"It feels so small to say thank you for saving my life," said Harlan.
Harlan has been down this road before, five years ago she suffered her first heart attack.
"At that time because I didn't have any risk factors, I pretty much ignored it," said Harlan.
That's when she was diagnosed with SCAD also known as Spontaneous Coronary Artery Dissection which is a rare heart condition that happens suddenly with no apparent warning or prior risk factors. It is a condition that cannot be predicted or prevented, according to the British Heart Foundation.
After suffering a second heart attack three years later and recovering from it just fine, she thought that would be the last time she would encounter a heart attack like that.
"Thirty percent of the time people who have SCAD have a second heart attack, very rarely do people have a third episode, so I thought, that's it," added Harlan.
She was surprised it happened for the third time since it is rare. She also adds she has little to no memory of what happened that day.
"My husband and I were watching television on a Sunday night and he looked over and I was starting to turn blue, he immediately called 911 and started CPR on me," said Harlan.
Luckily her husband learned CPR after learning about her condition which paramedics say played a huge role in saving her life before they arrived.
The crews from South Metro Fire arrived at her home, took over CPR, delivered two shocks to Harlan, and transported her to a HealthONE hospital, Sky Ridge Medical Center. She then spent five days in the ICU this time and had an implant to manage her heart moving forward.
Michael Miller, with South Metro Fire Rescue, has been an EMS for more than a decade and this was the first time he got to reunite with a patient like Harlan.
"I would advise everyone to go and get CPR training before anything like this happens," added Miller.
Now less than a week away from Thanksgiving, Harlan is just thankful she will be able to celebrate with her family and friends the gift of life.
"Within 11 minutes they got me to the hospital, they did everything right and thank you does not seem like enough," said Harlan.
SCAD is most common in women who are in their 40s and 50s, but it can happen to anyone. The condition is considered rare.
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