On Fridays, Ashley Lucchese often worked from home, but on March 10, 2017, she went to her workplace. She had just sat down at her desk when she confided in a colleague that she was feeling woozy. She subsequently fell to the ground.
Upon hearing a coworker of Lucchese yell for assistance, a manager rushed in and began cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR). Lucchese was having a heart attack.
Fortunately, her coworkers understood what to do because they had recently completed CPR training. Another employee dialed 9-1-1 as her manager alternated between compressions and breaths.
Soon after, paramedics took over and attempted to shock her heart back into a normal rhythm using an automated external defibrillator (AED) as they brought her to the hospital, where another emergency team worked for 30 minutes before successfully restoring a pulse.
After being stabilized, Lucchese was taken to a specialty hospital in Boston, Massachusetts. She was unable to travel by helicopter due to a spring snowfall, so she was placed in an ambulance, where she experienced another cardiac arrest.
As medical professionals worked to determine what caused Lucchese's cardiac arrest, they placed him on life support, on dialysis, and in a medical coma. She also had kidney failure.
She said, "The hospital professionals advised my family to hope for a miracle."
Doctors performed exploratory surgery on Lucchese to look for infection in her uterus because she had miscarried four days earlier. She was taken out of the coma six days later, and after spending two weeks in the hospital recovering and undergoing additional testing, she was released.
The cause of the cardiac arrest was unknown, so surgeons implanted an implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD) to shock her heart if it entered a lethal rhythm once more.
As her kidneys recovered, Lucchese retained a lot of fluid, which made walking challenging. But every day she forced herself to walk, starting with just a few steps and working up to doing laps around the hospital, so she could go home and see her 2-year-old son.
After coming home, Lucchese slept and rebuilt her strength for a month before starting her career as a sales executive.
She explained, "Even just taking a shower, I'd need to rest and take pauses."
She initially found it difficult to deal with the emotional impact of her cardiac arrest, so she sought counseling. An outlet for both physical and emotional stress was exercise.
She said, "I really had to learn to embrace every moment I have here with my loved ones and accept what I cannot control."
About 90% of the more than 350,000 cardiac arrests that occur outside hospitals each year are fatal, but prompt CPR can double or triple a person’s chance of survival.
Research has indicated that women are less likely than men to receive CPR in public, so other women may not be as fortunate.
Later, Lucchese got in touch with the neighborhood American Heart Association to help spread the word about the value of CPR instruction and the accessibility of AEDs, both of which contributed to saving her life.
"When I tell people that I suffered a heart arrest, most people are astonished," she added. They are unaware that anyone, regardless of age, can experience it.
Lucchese also intends to participate in the Boston Marathon in order to promote awareness of heart disease and stroke.
She has been able to refocus thanks to her experience, establishing a better work-life balance.
She stated, "I just treasure every minute." "It's pointless to worry about trivial issues that don't actually matter. It entails taking pleasure in each and every moment and everyone in your life.