Survivor Stories

        Adrian's Story

October 23, 2017

It was a normal Monday morning where I had just dropped off my 5-year-old at school and had y 3-year-old with me and my 7-year-old who was not feeling her best so I was keeping her home from school. I decided to make a quick trip to TJMAXX, because I was the PTA President at the time and needed to buy the Principal a gift. At the time I was a healthy 36-year-old stay at home mom of three who made sure we ate a heart healthy diet and exercised.

At 9:00 my kids and I were the only ones in the store and while they were looking at toys I was grabbing some gifts. After being there for about 10 minutes I started to feel dizzy, broke out in a cold dripping sweat just standing there leaning against a shelf, all of a sudden I got this crushing chest pain that felt like an elephant was stepping on my heart while putting a cigarette butt out (that is the only way I can explain it), and my arms started tingling. All of your classic heart attack symptoms, but why would a healthy 36-year-old be having a heart attack? An employee happened to walk by me and asked if I was ok. She said I looked very white. I walked over to my kids in the toy section just a couple feet away and I could not stand anymore and felt very nauseous. The employee thankfully was keeping an eye on me and helped me get to the bathroom, because I felt so sick. I could not get off the ground once I was in the bathroom so the employee got me a throw pillow.


The TJMAXX employee thought I was maybe having a panic attack. I had never had one of those before and having been in the heart world for the last 7 years (due to daughter being born w/half a heart -Tricuspid Atresia) I asked her to get me some aspirin just in case it was my heart. She ran to the pharmacy next door and bought some for me and asked if she should call 911. I said no, because my mom brain kicked in and I had no idea how the kids would be able to ride safely in the back of an ambulance with me and with our family only having one car at the time I did not know how would we pick it up? Not smart on my part. The employee called my husband who took an Uber from the University to pick us up and he drove us to the University of Michigan emergency room. I could hardly walk at this point or stand up straight my heart hurt so much.


Once in the ER my EKG was normal, my first troponin blood work was normal, nothing beyond PVCs were showing up on my monitor, and my chest pain was coming and going. After 8 hours they were going to discharge me saying I was “tired” being a mom of 3 and I just needed to reduce my stress. My husband & 2 kids left to go pick up our other child from school. Only a few minutes after they left while the doctor was going over my discharge paperwork tachycardia popped out of my monitor. The doctor laughed and thought I had touched the monitor to make it go off…I had not touched it. After reading the monitor he asked me if my heart still hurt and the answer was still yes! They never checked my 2nd blood draw which showed that my troponin levels were elevated and in fact I was having a heart attack. Then a flood of people entered the room, but I was not taken into the cath lab until 4:00 the next afternoon where once they were in saw that my LAD was 100% blocked by a spontaneous dissection also known as SCAD (Spontaneous Coronary Artery Dissection) and a stent was placed in my LAD to try and open it up again. Had I been discharged I would have died.


I was told I would probably not meet any other SCAD survivors, because it is so rare for people to survive. SCAD is the #1 cause of a heart attack in healthy women under age 50 as well as the #1 cause of a heart attack in women who are pregnant and new mothers. Although less common, SCAD can affect men too. SCAD survivors There was very little research I could find and the cardiologist who spoke to me said she could not believe I was alive. On my 37th birthday (Nov. 22) I was feeling lost and alone, so I started what is now the official Facebook SCAD Survivors of Michigan support group to see if there were any other “local” survivors out there. The support group now has over 100 survivors and we support each other virtually as well as get together in our local areas. In 2020 we organized the 1st annual 5K SCADdaddle where all funds raised will go to patient lead research being done by and specifically the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota. Our hope is to support SCAD survivors, spread awareness, and raise funds for research that will hopefully save lives.


Cathy's Story

I was sitting on my deck the evening of October 3, 2017 while talking to my daughter Amanda, on the phone.  We had been speaking for approximately 1 hour when suddenly Amanda realized that I had stopped speaking.  After not being able to get any response on the phone, she called her dad, Bob, on his cell phone and asked that he check on me immediately. 


Bob found me sitting in a chair on the deck, unconscious, not breathing and without a pulse.   He immediately began CPR and had Amanda call 911.  We happen to live within a block of the Chelsea Fire Department, so it was only a few minutes before 3 firefighters were at our home. 


The firemen took over the CPR and applied an AED. They had to give me 3 shocks.  The HVA unit arrived at the 10 minute mark and gave a fourth shock with success.  I was taken to St. Joseph Mercy Ann Arbor where I spent 1 week before being released.  I don’t have any memory of the week in the hospital but otherwise am back to a normal life.


Words cannot express how grateful I am to Bob and Amanda and all the emergency personnel for their very quick thinking and action without which the outcome would have been tragically different.  Amanda - for her quick thinking to try another phone number when I was no longer speaking and calling 911. Bob - for providing excellent compressions until additional help could arrive.  I must also thank the first responders who were quickly on site and who were able to keep me alive.  Although Bob does not work in the medical field, he had taken a few CPR classes and had never performed CPR in real life.  He centered himself and knew that he needed to start CPR until trained professionals could assist.


There are only two pieces of advice that I would like to emphasize from my cardiac arrest.

  1. Don’t assume that a phone call was just dropped.  Persist and call back to make sure that the other person is ok.  If they’re not reachable initially, try to get ahold of someone else that might be nearby.

  2. Call 911 and performing hands only CPR with your phone on speaker until additional help arrives.  Don’t be afraid to try or that you might hurt the person – it’s better to try than not – I’m living proof.

Courtney's Story

After spending the day skiing with her children, Courtney thought her back pain and numbness in her arms and hands were due to a strained muscle. When the 33 year old mom had a heart attack and went into cardiac arrest an hour later, her husband and neighbors jumped into action.  911 was called and CPR was started. Police were first on the scene and had an AED in their police car.  Courtney spent 2 weeks in the hospital and was diagnosed with Spontaneous Coronary Artery Dissection (SCAD).  


You can't always judge a book by it's cover.  Courtney was fit, in good health and had no family history of heart disease.  She showed classic symptoms of a heart attack in women but never thought that could be what was causing her back pain.  Know the signs and take them seriously.  Bystander CPR saves lives.  AED's save lives.  Know the links to the chain of survival and be willing to be a part of saving a life. 

Courtney tells her story to Channel 4 news >>

Peggy's Story

Peggy and her family had just returned home from a fun-filled day of picking strawberries.  Throughout the day, Peggy was experiencing back pain and just not feeling well.   While Peggy's daughter, a teacher with CPR training, and granddaughter, a registered nurse, were packing up to leave, they heard Peggy fall to the ground.   When they reached her, she was not breathing, and they could not feel a pulse. They quickly called 911 and began performing CPR.


Ida Township Fire Department arrived on scene first.  The firefighters applied an AED and continued CPR.  Once paramedics from Monroe Community Ambulance arrived, they were able to get Peggy's heart started again. The paramedics said that Peggy was awake and talking before they reached the hospital.


Peggy spent several weeks in the hospital and cardiac rehab before making a full recovery.  Peggy's back pain, unbeknownst, to her was a sign of her impending cardiac arrest, due to several coronary blockages.


Peggy and her family hope that this event helps to educate the public on the signs and symptoms of heart disease and heart attacks. Without the early recognition and CPR provided by her family, Peggy's outcome could have been worse.


Peggy's story is a prime example how learning CPR and AED use can indeed save a life!

David's Story

On May 27, 2017, I attended the LPGA Volvik Championship at Travis Pointe Country Club in Ann Arbor, Michigan. I was enjoying the day watching the pro golfer’s play from the Tito’s Vodka Skybox. I was talking to the Northeast Territory Manager for Tito’s and while I was talking to him and one of his colleagues I fell over and went into sudden cardiac arrest. I am 26 year’s old. CPR was administered for 20 minutes, followed by defibrillation and transport to University of Michigan Medical Center. The people that responded and performed CPR are Dr. Edward “Skip” Walton, his daughter Meredith Walton, Rex Vilaubi a retired Los Angeles fire captain and Pat Ryan a retired provider from the Henry Ford Health System. After two weeks in the hospital and many test the doctors still do not know what caused me to go into cardiac arrest. Before leaving the hospital I had an ICD (Implantable Cardioverter defibrillator) implanted in my chest.   


Calling 911 and doing Hands Only CPR are the first steps in saving a life when someone goes into cardiac arrest. If it wasn’t for the quick action of someone who called 911 and the individuals who performed Hands Only CPR on me, my story would have ended differently.


I encourage more people to be trained in CPR. This is something that anyone can do and you can help save a life!


Photo: Meredith Walton, Dr. Edward (Skip) Walton, David Beeler and Dr. Tony Hsu.

My name is David. On Thursday, August 3rd at 12:20pm, I stepped on the first tee at Plum Hollow Country Club to play in the opening round of the 2017 Club Invitational golf tournament. 

I was not feeling normal that morning and mentioned this to my playing partner of many years. I told him that I felt a little strange. On the third green I just collapsed. All I felt was a little dizzy and then I passed out. My partners shouted out for help. As luck would have it, two brothers heard the calls from the first green which was 225 yards away. The brothers took turns giving me CPR until an ambulance arrived around 15 minutes later. 

As you can imagine, I consider myself to be blessed beyond belief. There were so many things that had to go my way that day. The three men in my group reacted quickly. Even though they did not know CPR, they didn't hesitate to try and find help. 

After I woke up at Providence Hospital and informed as to what had happened it took me a day to realize I was just about the luckiest man on earth. Being kind of a private person I at first turned down requests to share my story. My wife convinced me to do the interviews as it would probably help many people understand how suddenly this can happen.  When I asked the reporter why she came to my office that day she said to me, “you don't understand, yours is the best story I've had in a long time". You just don't hear about a happy ending like this very often.

I am telling my story because two very dedicated, fast moving and even faster thinking professionals saved my life. Dr. Christopher Cooley and Dr. Matthew Cooley were playing golf. Chris actually birdied the first hole. Seconds later the call came and they did not hesitate to do everything possible to keep me alive. These are extraordinary young men who deserve thanks!

Robert's Story

My name is Robert and I am 15 years old.  I was eating breakfast at the County Cabin restaurant on August 26th.  I had asked for an application to apply for a job and when I was filling out the form I fell out of my chair.  A woman in the restaurant rushed over and started giving me CPR.   "If that lady wasn't there to help me, I don't know where I'd be or how I'd be or if I would be alive right now. I'm glad she was there at the right place at the right time."

The woman in the restaurant and the first responders immediately did the right things to help Robert.  She called 911 and the operator said she needed to perform CPR.  She just had CPR training at work this summer.  Sterling Heights police and firefighters arrived and took over caring for Robert.  Everyone was reunited to recognize what happened this seemingly normal summer morning.

View more of his story at and hear from the women who saved his life.

Nicole's Story

Nicole had a great day with her family making Christmas cookies and decorating their Christmas tree. She was watching a movie with her husband when she went in to cardiac arrest. Her husband, a member of the USAF, acted quickly by calling 911 and starting hands only CPR. The paramedics arrived and continued to work on Nicole. After 40 minutes, they were able to revive her.

Nicole, a 31 year old mother of 3 and teacher, had a previously unknown electrical problem in her heart and was otherwise in great health. Thanks to the quick actions of her husband giving hands only CPR, and the first responders, Nicole has made a full recovery! Cardiac arrest can effect anyone, at any time. Responding quickly, with hands only CPR, can truly save lives!

Karen's Story

Ypsilanti Couple Meets Dispatcher Who Helped Save Woman's Life  Read More>>

Rhonda's Story

I had established myself as a Paramedic, but been injured 3 times and lost my ability to lift and carry, ending that part of my career in medicine.  This day was sunny too, and my little brother and I had slept in, as well as my mom.  Jeffry and I were sitting on the deck drinking coffee when it hit us that it was after 10 and mom never sleeps that late; and then immediately we started to panic that we had better check on her.  I went in to check and he went to the basement bathroom.  When I walked in her back was towards me, but instantly I could tell that she was not okay, and that’s when my switch flipped and I had to no longer be Jessica at home, and I had to be Paramedic Jessica.  I got around the bed to my mom who was agonal breathing at about 6 times per minute, and she was literally covered in white, frothy sputum.  Flash pulmonary edema, I knew exactly what it was, and that she was in bad shape.  I needed help, and now. Down the stairs I went to find little J, and get his help, and I managed to find my phone, call 9-1-1, and get back into the bedroom to provide care with my sheers.  I rolled her over, manually cleared her airway, scissor stripped her, and told J to send in the help when they got there, and go find my jump-bag- that I had to remember exactly its location to send him.    An officer came in and we moved her from the bed to the floor and started compressions- because as soon as we laid her flat, she coded.

There I was, in my house with my little brother, counting my compressions and focusing on the depth trying to resuscitate my own mother.  EMS got there, and just like when I was walking into people’s homes to help them, a feeling of relief came over me, for a second.  I knew at that moment that I was a little overwhelmed and I needed to get out of the way and let them do it, but I was going to stay right there, you know, in case they needed some pointers.  Onto the monitor she went and down the tube went.  Asystole-  every medics fear when they start an arrest.  These people in my home were the epitome of what I hope I looked like every time I walked into someone’s house.  Out the door she went, the cop needed some info, and before they could load her I remembered to yell out to them “she has metal clips in her brain, please don’t let them suck them off before I can get there!!!”  Questions were answered, phone calls were made, my family was on their way and so were we.  She was still alive when the rig left, and when I walked in to GHP, of course through the EMS doors because who has time for the front desk when I need to see my mom. 

When they brought me up her room, of course the curtain was closed, but I immediately knew one thing that they weren’t doing CPR still, so she was still alive.  I only got a peak of course before I was whisked away to the “Family Lounge” to wait for the staff.  In the split second of seeing her in there on the vent I got a ray of hope, the nurse that was in there working tirelessly to support my mother post-cardiac arrest was a good friend and gentle soul, and I knew then that she was at least safe for the moment.   More phone calls to make, and our family was coming then.  It wasn’t until we were in ICU that it really dawned on me, talking with the Physician handling my mother’s care that I even really realized what had happened that afternoon. 

My mother had gone into severe respiratory distress in her sleep and had ultimately been drowning in her secretions.  She didn’t have very many more minutes to sustain like that before it was too late, but my ability to go through the motions and provide adequate basic chest compressions and some airway opening movements, saved her life that day.  She was treated for pneumonia for about 10 days and discharged, to then be treated outpatient for another 6 months or so to fully resolve it.  But she is healthy today, back in her classes in Grad school and still hanging out on the Dean’s List.  High quality CPR, without interruption saved her life, and left her with no lasting deficits. 

Our family’s trip to the Grand Canyon was like most family trips to an amazing place.  We were happy, and tired when we home around midnight.  Happiness quickly gave way to a life-changing moment when my husband Harold woke up early the next morning in cardiac arrest.  A call to 911 and an extraordinary dispatcher, who walked me through CPR, enabled our family to live through a potential tragedy.  My start of CPR was taken over by a member of our community’s volunteer fire department, who arrived on the scene quickly – and in his pajamas.  Paramedics arrived with a defibrillator to save Harold when he lost his heartbeat despite the CPR.  Each action contributed to saving Harold’s life.

That moment in our lives reflects one of our scariest moments, but it also reflects the best of people working together.  I never thought that I could rise to the occasion to help someone else live.  I appreciate people who work and who volunteer as first responders in a whole new way.  It is truly special to be a part of the human chain that saves a human life.  In my case it was my husband and the father of our children, but in every case it is someone’s father, mother, daughter, son, sister, brother, friend.  Learning CPR, calling 911 – these actions can seem so simple, and they are. 

Greg' Story

February 25th, 2012 was a classic, dreary Michigan winter's Saturday.  I woke up, said to my bride, "I think I have heartburn."  As many men do, I ignored her attempts initially to go to the hospital and emphatically said no to calling an ambulance... NOT WISE!  We ultimately got in her car to take the 20 mile drive from Brighton, Michigan to University of Michigan Emergency Department.  6.2 miles from the hospital I suffered a cardiac arrest in the car.  She thought through the options and believed she was close enough to get me to the ER and get help.  After more than 30 minutes, the staff in the emergency department were able to restart my heart, get me to the cath lab and put in two stents. They then sent me to Cardiac ICU where they performed "therapeutic hypothermia".  After 4 days, I awoke and though very sore (from chest compressions) was fortunate to recover completely.  


In spite of my great fortune, there are many "lessons learned" from the experience.  Here are just a few...  1. If you have chest pain,  call 911 and seek an ambulance- never drive yourself since you may not make it to the hospital.  2. Don't ignore symptoms - I had apparently felt bad the day before but didn't react as I presumed "I'm too young." 3. Sudden cardiac arrest is traumatic for bystanders and loved ones but knowing the signs and getting trained, even with just hands-only CPR, may very well help save the life of your friends or family.  I am thankful to so many health professionals who helped to save my life and give me the greatest gift of all... a quality "second life."

Lisa's Story

Last week, Michigan cardiac arrest survivor Lisa Cardillo,  was in Boston to share her story with Abiomed Inc. and teach Hands-Only CPR to their employees. Abiomed makes the Impella heart pump, which contributed to her heart recovery. A journalist from their local newspaper interviewed her and  published an article. 

Lisa also did an interview with Fox 2 Detroit at the Go Red For Women event at Ford Field. She was able to teach their reporter and viewing audience hands-only CPR live on the air! Needless to say, it has been a very exciting February for Lisa!

Please reload