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Stories of the Heart: Cardiac event leads to love and a new kind of marathon

January 9, 2023

Stories of the Heart: Cardiac event leads to love and a new kind of marathon

While I haven’t personally experienced a cardiovascular heart challenge, I would like to share a heart miracle story that has changed me for the better by supporting a cardiac arrest survivor.

My significant other, Alex, had a sudden cardiac arrest in Sept. 2017, five days before his 33rd birthday. We were told he had less than 1 percent chance to live. At the time, he was looking to qualify for Kona – The Ironman World Championship event (2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike, 26.2-mile run) – and after a short two-mile race, Alex collapsed. A bystander gave him CPR for 30 minutes prior to the ambulance arriving. He was life-flighted to a nearby hospital where he underwent therapeutic hypothermia, a last-ditch effort to preserve his life. Although the odds were stacked against him, Alex did survive.

Alex and I were long-time friends prior to his accident. After being with him and his family during this tragic incident, I found it hard to leave his side. I needed to be there. I needed to keep praying, believing, and showing signs of hope. Thankfully, after many days in the hospital, he had a healthy recovery and we were able to watch him dance out like he had a full life ahead of him. And just as I couldn’t leave his side in the hospital, I found it hard to leave his side after his release. From that point forward, we’ve shared many laughs, travels, and times together. We’ve been together nearly a year and a half and if you’ve met Alex, he would tell you, “I had to die to get her attention.”

Despite the gift of life and an overall positive health outlook, Alex struggled in private. He struggled with accepting the AED device that was implanted in his chest and adjusting to life in recovery after such a life-altering event. When he was alone, he was fearful he would have another episode. I knew I wanted to be there for him and his recovery. I sensed something that Alex couldn’t admit himself – he started to show signs of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and depression.

It has been a long road to get here, but today, Alex will openly talk about his depression and PTSD. It has also given me the opportunity to openly talk about what it means to support a loved one going through this kind of traumatic incident. After seeking professional help, both on his own and together, we found ourselves running a new kind of race; one that required much more pain to endure, but more rewards to gain – we learned to love the struggle together. While I never thought my road to love would start this way, we both committed to the process of learning about one another’s ways of processing change and loss. While I wasn’t the bystander that saved his life through CPR or his ER doctor that life-flighted him, pushing the therapeutic hypothermia, I helped Alex realize how much more he had to look forward to in life. Though our race wasn’t Kona, we’ve both taken our marathon-running mentality to create our own race to recovery and to simply appreciate the gift of life.


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