Three years before musician and actress Ilisa Juried appeared on The CW’s reality show Pussycat Dolls Present: Girlicious, her heart stopped in New York City’s Grand Central Station.
The then-18-year-old was sightseeing with her mom when they saw a group of hip-hop dancers performing at the train station, and Juried asked to join in. The lead dancer pulled her in, and a few moments later, Juried collapsed.
Deb Scholten, a nurse vacationing from Michigan, ran to Juried’s side and started CPR. When paramedics arrived 30 minutes later, they used an automated external defibrillator, or AED, to shock Juried’s heart back into a normal rhythm.
The Florida native spent six weeks in a New York City hospital, where doctors ultimately diagnosed her with long QT syndrome, a problem with the heart’s electrical system that can cause a fast, chaotic heart rhythm. The Juried family believes the condition, which is often inherited, may explain her father’s death from cardiac arrest at age 45.
While in the hospital, doctors implanted a cardioverter defibrillator, known as an ICD, to shock her heart back to its normal beat should a life-threatening rhythm ever occur.
“My [ICD] scar is my star,” said Juried, who is now 29 and lives in Los Angeles. “Every day I’m reminded of my strength, simply by what I’ve had to endure with my condition.”
The device has shocked her heart three times.
“I always faint right before it happens, so I don’t remember any of it,” she said.
Following her recovery, Juried scaled back on dance, focusing instead on her love for music and acting. During the past decade, she has appeared in dozens of commercials and recently released a jazz album titled Making History.
She takes medication to help manage her irregular heartbeat and is careful when doing any exercise. She also volunteers for the American Heart Association, sharing her story at local events and raising awareness about CPR.
“CPR is the only thing that saved me from major brain damage and kept me alive,” said Juried, who keeps in touch with Scholten through Facebook.
About 40 people each hour have a cardiac arrest while not in a hospital, and nine of 10 do not survive, according to AHA statistics. Yet receiving bystander CPR can double or even triple the victim’s chances of survival.
Juried first learned CPR as a teenager when she was a babysitter. Last October, she underwent training again.
“Everyone should learn CPR,” she said. “You can truly save someone’s life by learning simple techniques.”