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 the 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 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.
Lucchese was taken to a hospital in Boston, Massachusetts after being stabilized. 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.
In addition to having kidney failure, Lucchese was placed on life support, dialysis, and a medical coma while experts investigated what caused the cardiac arrest.
She said, "The hospital professionals advised my family to hope for a miracle."
Doctors performed exploratory surgery on Lucchese since she had miscarried four days before in order to look for a uterine infection. She came out of the coma six days later and spent two weeks in the hospital getting stronger and undergoing additional testing.
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 had 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 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. Exercise was an outlet for both physical and emotional stress.
She said, "I really had to learn to embrace every moment I have here with my loved ones and accept what I could not control."
Lucchese retrained in CPR after completing cardiac rehab. She received CPR training at the hotel she worked at, not just the leaders.
Even though early CPR can double or triple a person's chance of survival, almost 90% of the more than 350,000 cardiac arrests that happen outside of hospitals each year are deadly.
Research has indicated that women are less likely than males 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 accessibility to AEDs, both of which contributed to saving her life.