Grace Firestone gave a speech at her high school graduation at Tower Hill in Wilmington, Delaware, on June 4, 2011.
She had high expectations for the fall and was in excellent health. Two days later, she and her best friend went tubing on the Brandywine, and in the afternoons they worked out at the neighborhood YMCA. At about 11 o'clock in the evening, she had a cardiac arrest and barely made it to her mother's bedroom before collapsing on her bed and telling her, "I don't feel so good."
As soon as she was dead weight, her mother lifted her up and placed her on her back following the 911 instructions. The moment Grace's brother arrived downstairs, he began performing chest compressions and later rescue breathing.
In less than three minutes, EMTs came and immediately took over. Her heart stopped three times throughout the night, so the responders had to shock her chest with an AED six times to get a pulse. They also used an intraosseous infusion technique, which involves drilling into the bone marrow of the patient's shins, to inject IV fluid into her bloodstream because her veins were failing.
To avoid organ damage, Grace was placed on ice in the emergency room. She was transferred to the intensive care unit (ICU) where she remained for 10 days after she stabilized and began breathing independently.
The following morning, Grace slowly left the hospital with an ICD implanted in her left chest and a renewed appreciation for life.
Making routines and exercising on the treadmill for 25 minutes each day constituted the remedial physical and cognitive therapy that took place during the summer. Her brain swelled as a result of the lack of oxygen when her heart stopped, which made it difficult for her to retain complicated ideas and short-term memory.
Grace made the decision to enroll in the honors program for the start of college in August, nevertheless, after passing a neuropsychology exam in late July. She also began participating in the university women's club soccer team, despite her doctor's advice.
Since then, Grace has worked in the nonprofit sector in addition to being a student. She spent three weeks volunteering at an orphanage in Kenya in January of last year, after which she joined a team of volunteers to climb Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania.
Grace is currently an intern at the AHA researching congenital cardiac abnormalities and an advocate for CPR training to be a prerequisite for DE high school graduation.
She wouldn't be here with just a scar from being minutes away from severe damage or death if it weren't for the fact that her brother obtained CPR certification years before.
The best guess of the doctors is that Grace's heart was attacked by a virus. She had no indications of a congenital illness or other heart problems.
Together, we are the cure, and it is our duty to fight for the kind of change that can save lives forever.