After spending the afternoon assessing science projects from middle and high schools, Rose Blackwood was saying goodbye to a colleague when she suddenly felt extremely dizzy.
The next thing she recalls is waking up in the hospital a day later as the ventilator was being withdrawn by a nurse.
I questioned whether I was dead when I saw my husband, daughter, and sister at the foot of my bed, she recalled.
Blackwood's heart was shocked by an automatic external defibrillator (AED) so that it could return to a regular rhythm. She received an implantable cardioverter defibrillator, or ICD, in the hospital, which would shock her heart if it ever again entered a dangerous heart rhythm.
Florida resident Brent Blackwood, who resides in Boynton Beach, was fortunate. About 326,000 Americans experience a cardiac arrest outside of a hospital each year, according to emergency medical services, making it one of the leading causes of mortality in the country. According to the American Heart Association, bystander CPR can double or triple a person's chance of survival, although less than half of patients receive it.
A person who has a cardiac arrest frequently has no symptoms before the incident. However, Blackwood, who is now 54, claimed that looking back, there had been warning signs for years that something was off.
Blackwood recalls feeling extremely exhausted all the time as she tried to balance work and her three children as long as five years ago.
While all the other mothers would be taking their kids to the pool, she explained, "I'd have to lie down so I'd have the energy to make dinner."
She saw the doctor every six months as she tried to identify the source of her symptoms, which also included heart palpitations and excessive sweating. When lying on her stomach, she was also in excruciating pain on her left side.
I was usually feeling awful, she admitted. They kept telling me that it was only a perimenopause symptom.
Blackwood never thought about getting a second opinion. She said, "I never believed one was needed. She maintained a healthy weight, made an effort to be active, gave up smoking three years prior, and her blood pressure was consistently normal when checked."
Blackwood then experienced numbness in her right arm a week before her cardiac arrest, which her doctors suspected to be carpal tunnel syndrome.
Blackwood's cardiac arrest led to the diagnosis of heart failure, ventricular tachycardia, ventricular fibrillation, and cardiomyopathy, which is an enlarged heart.
Her ICD was triggered three times while she was participating in the West Palm Beach 2014 Heart Walk. Blackwood raced to the finish line because she wanted to finish the competition strongly.
She admitted that it shocked her the moment she stopped. Later, she discovered that the gadget needed to be adjusted since it had misunderstood her heart rate.
Blackwood was inspired by the incident to strongly support bystander CPR. Blackwood organizes CPR and AED training sessions for her coworkers in her position at Florida's Department of Environmental Protection.
Fortunately, a few weeks prior to Blackwood's collapse, Kay, the employee who assisted in saving Blackwood, had completed a CPR refresher course that was highly recommended. Both are currently pursuing certification as first aid and CPR instructors.
Blackwood urges women to be unafraid when they sense something is wrong with their health and to be more aware of their own heart health, in addition to asking people to obtain CPR training.