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CPR Training Saves Woman's Life: A Remarkable Journey of Survival

Updated: May 31, 2023


Cardiac arrest survivor Kathy Wilson-Gold (center) with her twins, Michael and Megan, when they were young children. (Photo courtesy of Kathy Wilson-Gold)

On a sunny October morning, Kathy Wilson-Gold embarked on a business trip to New Jersey after dropping off her 6-year-old twins, Michael and Megan, at school in Oklahoma City. Little did she know that this day would take an unexpected turn, testing her strength and the power of CPR training.


During a layover at the Philadelphia airport, Kathy sought to change her flight after receiving a text from a client about an early meeting ending. As she inquired about available flights at the airline club, tragedy struck. Kathy suddenly collapsed, hitting the floor with a thud.


A quick-thinking airline staff member, Kenwyn Olin, immediately called 911 and desperately called for medical personnel. Within moments, three individuals outside the club responded to the distress call - a veteran firefighter, a retired nurse, and a German doctor. Kathy had no pulse, and the trio sprang into action.


Todd Prentiss, the firefighter, began performing CPR while the others searched for an automated external defibrillator (AED). The intense efforts continued for a grueling 10 minutes. Simultaneously, a fellow traveler managed to find Kathy's phone and dialed the last number she had called - her husband, Mike Gold. The phone was then passed to Olin, who was familiar with both Kathy and Mike due to their frequent travels through the Philadelphia airport.


In Oklahoma, Mike was in the midst of strapping the kids into their car seats when Olin's distressed voice came through the phone. The chilling words "Something's wrong with Kathy" struck Mike's heart. Olin continued, "Mike, it's bad."


The phone was handed over to the doctor, who desperately asked Mike if Kathy had any medical conditions or took medication. Mike replied that she did not. Suddenly, a cry filled the air - "I still can't get a pulse!" The connection abruptly ended.


Meanwhile, an AED was located, and after three shocks, Kathy's heart began beating again. Emergency medical services arrived promptly, rushing her to a nearby hospital where she was placed on a ventilator. Extensive tests were conducted to determine the cause of her cardiac arrest, but no clogged arteries were found.


Olin took charge of booking flights for Mike to reach Philadelphia, a journey fraught with uncertainty. Boarding the plane to Dallas, the first leg of his anxious trip, the pilot's announcement brought a mix of dread and relief. "We have a medical emergency," the pilot conveyed, "Please let Mike Gold off first."


While anxiety gnawed at him, Mike was comforted by the support of airline employees who were eager to assist him in making his connection. At the hospital, Kathy lay in a coma, connected to a ventilator. Her boss and another executive offered prayers, holding a Bible close. Throughout the night, Mike remained at her side, talking to her and praying, finding solace in his unwavering faith.


Doctors warned Mike that the duration of Kathy's cardiac arrest meant she might suffer brain damage. However, an electroencephalogram (EEG) the following morning delivered a glimmer of hope - her brain activity appeared normal.


Miraculously, Kathy regained consciousness. She and Mike embarked on an ambulance journey to a specialized heart hospital, where she would receive the care she needed. During the ride, Mike felt a surge of relief as he heard Kathy inquire about their twins, ensuring they were okay.


Despite extensive medical evaluations, no explanation was found for Kathy's sudden cardiac arrest. To mitigate the risk of a future event, she underwent implantation of a cardioverter defibrillator (ICD) - a device capable of detecting and correcting abnormal heart rhythms.


Finally discharged from the hospital, Kathy reflects on her harrowing experience and the remarkable journey of her survival. She acknowledges the physical and spiritual recovery that followed and emphasizes the importance of time and patience in the healing process.


Kathy's life-changing encounter with sudden cardiac arrest highlights the critical role of CPR training in saving lives. It was the immediate response and skillful CPR performed by Todd Prentiss, the firefighter, that kept her alive until medical professionals arrived. Without a doubt, the timely intervention and knowledge of those who administered CPR were instrumental in her survival.


Kathy's story also emphasizes the significance of access to AEDs in public spaces. The availability of an AED played a crucial role in restoring Kathy's heartbeat and giving her a chance at life. This underscores the importance of widespread CPR and AED training, ensuring that more individuals are equipped with the skills to respond effectively in such emergencies.


As Kathy continues her journey of recovery and resilience, she remains grateful for every moment with her family. Her experience has instilled in her a profound appreciation for the ordinary aspects of life that are often taken for granted. She implores others to live each day as if it were their last, cherishing their loved ones and embracing the beauty of every moment.


Kathy's dedication to raising awareness about the importance of CPR training and access to AEDs is evident in her work as a senior nutrition consultant. Her role in shaping policies and services to improve the lives of older Americans resonates with her personal journey of survival and resilience.


In the end, Kathy's story is a testament to the power of CPR training, the life-saving potential of AEDs, and the unwavering spirit of individuals who refuse to give up. It serves as a powerful reminder that by equipping ourselves with knowledge and being prepared to respond in times of crisis, we can make a significant difference in the lives of others.


Kathy's miraculous survival is a beacon of hope, inspiring us to prioritize CPR training, advocate for accessible AEDs, and cherish every precious moment we have with our loved ones. Her story stands as a testament to the resilience of the human spirit and the incredible impact that a single act of CPR can have in saving a life.


Source: https://www.heart.org/en/news/2023/05/12/health-care-execs-heart-stops-at-the-airport



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