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Woman describes surviving sudden cardiac arrest at age 22: "It can happen at any time to anybody"

Women and heart health
One woman shares her story of surviving sudden cardiac arrest at 22 years old 06:49

Cardiovascular disease is the number one killer of women in the U.S. Each year, more than 350,000 out-of-hospital cardiac arrests occur around the country. Studies show women are less likely than men to receive CPR from a bystander and less likely to survive a cardiac event.

CBS News senior medical correspondent Dr. Tara Narula, a cardiologist with Northwell Health, spoke with one woman who suffered a sudden cardiac arrest at a young age and credits CPR with saving her life.

Celebrating another year of life is something Jenylyn Carpio does not take for granted after she almost died in 2005. Jenylyn was visiting her mother Jocelyn with her then 2-month-old daughter when she decided to take a nap. Jocelyn was trained in CPR, but she never expected that she would use it to save her own daughter's life.

Dr. Tara Narula demonstrates the proper way to perform CPR 06:26

"I was 22 years old when I became a new mom. I was a new wife and I was a college student. And next thing I remember, my mom frantically pumping at my chest, yelling at me to wake up," Jenylyn told Dr. Narula. "A police officer was shining a light in my eyes and my mom had said that, 'You just experienced a sudden cardiac arrest.'"

About 90% of people who suffer out-of-hospital cardiac arrests die, but performing CPR more than doubles someone's chance of survival. At the hospital, doctors discovered Jenylyn had an undiagnosed genetic heart condition that can cause irregular heart rhythms – putting her at risk for sudden cardiac death.

"I was shocked," she said. "I had to process that this was going to be a lifelong thing."

Surgeons implanted a defibrillator in Jenylyn to detect and shock her heart when abnormal and dangerous heart rhythms are detected. She has now had four defibrillator replacement surgeries, the most recent in 2020. With this device, Jenylyn is living a near-normal life and using lessons learned from her own experience to bring awareness to sudden cardiac arrest and the importance of CPR.

"What I would like other people to know in regards to sudden cardiac arrest is it can happen at any time to anybody, and that knowing CPR is a life-saving skill," she said. "And that is why I'm here today."

Jenylyn is now a volunteer spokeswoman for the American Heart Association and she hopes her story will help encourage others to learn CPR.

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