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Woman recognizes value of CPR training after cardiac arrest incident

CPR training is beneficial and can save life
CPR training is beneficial and can save life

Regular jogs are a significant component of Marla Sewall's routine. It supports her in keeping her physical and mental health at age 52.

She's finished 13 marathons in addition to her usual walks through Highland Park, a neighborhood in Dallas.

One's preparation for one can be just as demanding as the main event. That was the situation in the last few days leading up to the 2011 Chicago Marathon.

She ran roughly 40 miles during her peak training three weeks prior to the event and managed to fit in a few games of tennis with her husband, Cary. It was understandable why she was worn out Sunday night.

Marla went upstairs to a guest suite with a sitting area to watch TV after Cary went to bed for the night. Later, Cary heard what sounded like water gushing through the pipes, like someone was running a bath.

He felt compelled to rise from his bed and proceed to the guest suite. He called it "divine intervention."

His feet were drenched as he walked toward the restroom. The rug was stopped in the water. When he quickly entered, he discovered Marla's body submerged in the overflowing tub with her face up. Her skin and lips were blue, and her eyes were wide open.

Cary pushed Marla to the floor and frantically started performing CPR, doing chest compressions and giving breaths into her mouth in what seemed to be an endless loop, feeling complete "horror and astonishment." After what Cary estimated to have been ten minutes but felt like an hour, Marla gurgled up some water and started to breathe laboriously.

Invoking 911, Cary. He is aware that he should have dialed 911 right away, but he was in a rush to get Marla breathing again. He remained downstairs as the paramedics treated Marla after they arrived. He shouted up every few minutes to check on her breathing. They left the room carrying Marla in a body bag after around 30 minutes.

She ended up being placed in a more flexible body bag when the paramedics discovered they couldn't get a stretcher down the half moon-shaped stairway and out to the ambulance.

Marla was intubated in the ICU and in an induced coma when Cary next saw her. Her body temperature was artificially decreased because doctors feared she may have experienced brain damage due to a lack of oxygen to the brain.

Marla briefly regained consciousness three days later as medical professionals changed her IV. The medical staff started boosting her body temperature in an effort to wake her from the coma.

In the days that followed, medical professionals struggled to figure out why someone who appeared to be healthy and had no history of heart problems had their heart stopped. The last test examined the electrical rhythm of her heart but provided no answers.

She entered ventricular fibrillation, a potentially fatal disease that causes the bottom chambers of the heart to tremble rather than beat normally, leading to cardiac arrest.

In Marla's chest, medical professionals implanted a cardioverter defibrillator. The gadget will transmit a shock to restore a regular rhythm if her heart ever slips into V-fib once more.

Marla joined the American Heart Association a year later, eager to spread the word about cardiac arrest and the value of understanding CPR. At a Go Red for Women luncheon in Dallas and a subsequent event in San Antonio, she spoke about her experiences.

Cary is even more adamant about the value of performing CPR and dialing 911 after receiving an AHA lifesaver award.

Marla is currently preparing for the Chicago Marathon on October 10 to mark the ten-year anniversary of her survival. Her actions serve to raise money for the AHA.

She runs with a local group as part of her training, which frequently begins before sunrise. She considers it an honor to perform at this level. She actually finds the positive side of almost everything.

She remarked, "I'm incredibly happy because what happened to me makes me cherish every day."

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