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Healthy 37 year old woman encourages everyone to learn CPR after cardiac arrest event

cardiac arrest and cpr
Cardiac arrest can happen even to healthy individuals - the importance of knowing CPR

Mary Gordon was fit, lively, and healthy at 37 years old. She worked out on a high-tech stationary bike and ran 5Ks on a regular basis. So she didn't know how to describe the exhaustion she was feeling.

She awoke feeling strange shortly before Christmas in 2019. While decorating her home for the holidays, she took frequent breaks to rest.

She blamed her symptoms on a lack of sleep after attending an ugly sweater party the night before. She went shopping with a friend in nearby Washington, D.C., despite not feeling well, and nearly passed out at one point.

Gordon felt fatigued and dehydrated. However, she nearly passed out three more times during the next week, including once while driving.

She had a last-minute appointment with her doctor's physician assistant on New Year's Eve because she was scheduled to fly out on Jan. 1.

She was so fatigued that she thought she'd have to go to the hospital. She also updated the beneficiary information on her accounts just to be safe.

Her heart was tested by the physician assistant, who reported that everything appeared normal. On the other hand, her blood pressure was extremely high. Gordon was advised to cancel her ticket and begin wearing a cardiac monitor so that the medical team could obtain more data.

Gordon had seen the monitor before.

Her doctor discovered a heart murmur and diagnosed her with mitral valve prolapse when she was in college. Her mitral valve's flaps, or leaflets, had extra tissue, which caused them to expand into the left atrium when her heart squeezed. Blood flowing back through the valve due to severe mitral valve prolapse can cause irregular heartbeats, or arrhythmia. However, after reviewing the data, the doctor advised her not to be concerned.

An EKG years later seemed to corroborate the diagnosis.

Gordon fainted near the elevator after exiting the visit with the physician assistant.

She was found unconscious after a receptionist heard her fighting to breathe.

She was having a heart attack.

CPR was performed for six minutes by a physician assistant and a doctor. They also shocked her heart back into rhythm with an automatic external defibrillator.

Gordon began screaming the second time they shocked her, though she doesn't recall it. Her first memory is of being in the emergency hospital with her boyfriend, Matt Costakis, and numerous doctors at her bedside.

She wasn't sure why she was there for the first few days.

Gordon's chest was implanted with an implantable cardioverter defibrillator two days later. Her mitral valve was repaired in a second minimally invasive operation the following week.

Gordon was released from the hospital after two weeks. She was still tired, but she was eager to begin cardiac rehab and dove right in.

She liked meeting other survivors and liked being able to improve her strength, stamina, and confidence in a controlled environment.

She resumed running again eight months after her heart episode.

On their one-year anniversary, Gordon and Costakis, along with Almond, ascended her favorite trail in Shenandoah National Park, a strenuous nearly 3-mile journey to the summit of a mountain. Gordon arranged the hike to commemorate her progress over the previous year.

Gordon wants to raise awareness about the distinction between heart attacks and cardiac arrest now that he is happily engaged and largely healed. The former is caused by a blockage, whereas cardiac arrest is caused by an electrical problem and can strike anyone at any time.

That is why she is so passionate about CPR instruction. She plans to host one for her family and friends shortly.

"It doesn't harm to review it or watch the video to boost your confidence," she advised. "All I ask is that I can do something to help the next person."

We offer BLS, ACLS, and PALS Training and certification

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