Sydney Ridlehoover had done her duties and persuaded her parents to take her and a friend to a nearby mall outside of Columbus, Ohio. The females stepped out of the car and walked ahead, laughing and conversing as they did so.
Sydney's stepfather, Peter Hubby, witnessed her collapse before they even arrived at the mall. He assumed the 13-year-old had tripped or was simply amusing himself. Sydney's parents, Peter and Tracy Elsinger, recognized something was wrong when she didn't get up.
They dashed over to her aid. She was trembling and making unusual breathing noises. Sydney was having a seizure, Tracy thought. While Peter dialed 911, she flipped her daughter over and cried for help.
A respiratory therapist who happened to be nearby heard the ruckus and quickly came to Sydney's aid. She realized the girl was having a heart attack and began CPR. An off-duty EMT happened to be passing by and decided to help with the rescue. The off-duty EMT asked a mall security guard for an automated external defibrillator when he arrived.
The security guy got in his truck and took the AED to the off-duty EMT. Sydney had gone into cardiac arrest after the AED detected a shockable rhythm and delivered repeated electrical jolts to terminate the irregular pulse.
The ambulance had arrived at that time.
Sydney was medicated in the hospital for two days to allow her brain to rest. Doctors won't be able to tell what kind of harm has occurred until then.
Sydney was unable to answer several questions accurately when she awoke.
Sydney's fogginess may take a few more days to dissipate, according to doctors. That's exactly what happened. She was soon back to her old self.
Cardiac arrest is caused by an electrical disturbance that causes the heart to beat irregularly and stop pumping blood to the rest of the body. Why would the heart of a healthy 13-year-old go into cardiac arrest?
Despite the fact that doctors were unable to identify Sydney's underlying issue, they suspected it was ventricular fibrillation, a sort of abnormal heartbeat. Sydney's cardiologist inserted a defibrillator after her cardiac arrest to shock her heart if it goes into an abnormal rhythm again.
Her mother has been dealing with irregular heartbeat problems for over a decade. Tracy had supraventricular tachycardia, which is an excessively fast heartbeat. She had an ablation operation and tried various drugs when her illness deteriorated.
Following Sydney's cardiac arrest, tests showed a gene mutation she inherited from her mother, which experts believe is connected to cardiac arrest. Following Sydney's cardiac arrest, the family purchased an AED. They keep it at home and take it with them on trips.
Around 90% of the more than 366,000 people in the United States who have a cardiac arrest outside of a hospital each year die. CPR can double or triple a person's chances of survival, especially if given quickly.
Sydney's family received CPR training following her cardiac arrest. They also took part in the Central Ohio Heart Walk in Columbus and spoke at local gatherings about their experience. Sydney's story is also told in neighborhood schools as part of CPR and AED instruction, which is required for high school graduation in Ohio.
Sydney's life has returned to normal now that she is 15, save for her newfound appreciation for CPR.
"Anyone could have a cardiac attack," she remarked. "I'm alive today because someone nearby learned CPR, and I'll be eternally grateful for that."