On National Wear Red Day last year, John Lewis's heart stopped while he was at work. (Photo courtesy of John Lewis)
On National Wear Red Day in 2018, few people at the Nashville law firm Lewis, Thomason, King, Krieg & Waldrop took notice of the occasion, which calls attention to heart disease being the No. 1 killer of women.
"I think we had forgotten about it being that day," said Tania Freeman, the firm's business development officer.
Still, Feb. 2, 2018, turned out to be a day many of them would never forget, especially Tania and John Lewis.
A 70-year-old partner in the firm, John came to work thinking not about hearts, but about flu season. He'd been achy and congested all week and his wife, Barbara, was home with the flu and a 102-degree fever.
He headed home early, promising colleagues he would go to the doctor. While waiting for the elevator to take him down from the 25th floor, he stopped to talk with two colleagues, including his son.
Then his heart stopped.
Tania was in her office when a colleague said John passed out in the lobby. Tania grabbed her cellphone and went to assess the situation, thinking she would call 911 if needed. She arrived on the scene to find staff members Ellen Black, Christin Bryant and Tasra Lumpkin performing CPR. Someone had already called 911.
Someone else retrieved the office's AED and brought it to John's side. Tania noticed it wasn't being used yet, so she turned it on, just in case.
John was in cardiac arrest, which essentially means his heart's power went out.
The shock didn't work.
They resumed giving CPR until the machine said it was OK to try again. Tania did.
Soon after, John reached up and grabbed her hand. He started talking and tried to stand up. Everyone was surprised, especially the paramedics who arrived soon after.
In addition to the cardiac arrest, John suffered a heart attack – one so severe it's called the "widow maker." The difference is that a cardiac arrest is a glitch in the heart's electrical system, while the heart attack is more like a plumbing problem. Something is blocked. In this case, it was the left anterior descending artery, a major pathway supplying blood to the heart.