Woman who survived cardiac arrest at 24 shares warning sign she rejected
Brittany Williams’ life almost ended in 2014 in a Times Square restaurant in New York.
At just 24, Williams went into cardiac arrest and passed out. Two strangers sprung into action and gave Williams CPR for eight minutes. After being put into a medical coma, she woke up in hospital two days later.
Now, nearly a decade later, Williams shared her story in a February 6 segment of the TODAY show to raise awareness about heart health and the importance of CPR training — and to remind everyone that even young people can find themselves in life-threatening situations. like his.
The warning signs
Cardiac arrest occurs when the heart muscle malfunctions due to an “electrical problem” and suddenly stops beating, according to the American Heart Association. About 90% of people who experience cardiac arrest outside of the hospital die, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, but cardiac arrest can be reversed if a bystander starts CPR and uses a defibrillator to bring the heart back to normal within minutes.
Cardiac arrest and heart attack are often thought of as the same thing, but they are different. A heart attack occurs when there is a blockage in the heart.
Heart attacks and cardiac arrests can happen without any prior warning or symptoms. But in Williams’ case, she dismissed a major warning sign the week before heading to New York.
“I was at work, and all of a sudden the left side of my body went numb and tingled,” she said. “I sat down and thought, ‘Oh no, this is not okay. This is not how I feel on a daily basis.'”
As the sensation began to worsen, Williams searched the internet for what her symptoms might mean and found some disturbing results. “Three things came up: stroke, heart attack, cardiac arrest,” she explained. She reported her concerns to her boss, who brushed her off.
“You’re 24. You run five miles a day. You eat extremely healthy, that would never happen to you,” Williams recalled telling his boss. “I trusted him. And three days later I was on the floor in a restaurant in Times Square without a pulse.”
Williams doesn’t remember much of when she had the cardiac arrest – the only change she noticed in her body before was the tingling sensation. But her parents saw her go into cardiac arrest.
“My mum and dad looked and they thought I was having a seizure,” she said. “My eyes rolled to the back of my head, and I just collapsed, and I was unresponsive.
It’s important to recognize that heart problems can affect anyone, Dr. Stacey Rosen, cardiologist at Northwell Health’s Katz Institute for Women’s Health and American Heart Association volunteer, said today.
“Listen to your body,” said Rosen, who did not address Williams. “Heart disease affects young people, old people, lean and healthy runners. And when you feel something is wrong, act on it.” She stressed the importance of contacting a medical professional if you feel something is wrong, even if other people think you shouldn’t be worried.
Cardiac arrest treatment
We tend to think of the heart exclusively as a muscle, but “it actually has an exquisite electrical mechanism. And that electrical impulse makes the heart pump,” Rosen explained.
With CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation), any trained bystander can provide compression and rescue breaths that can restart the heart.
Two eye doctors who were in the restaurant when Williams lost consciousness were able to perform CPR for eight minutes, which kept her alive until she received emergency medical help.
At the hospital, Williams was diagnosed with long QT syndrome, a condition that causes a rapid and irregular heartbeat, according to the Mayo Clinic.
Long QT syndrome causes “an electrical disturbance that makes the heart beat chaotic, and then the heart can’t pump normally,” Rosen explained. “After a few seconds, you lose consciousness.”
Williams underwent surgery to implant a defibrillator to prevent further episodes in the future, she said. Implantable defibrillators prevent dangerously fast or irregular heartbeats, according to the Mayo Clinic.
For some time after the ordeal, Williams was “in a constant state of fear” of having another cardiac arrest, she recalled. “But I knew deep down that I had a second chance at life, and I wasn’t going to waste it.”
Now she takes the time to encourage people to learn CPR and talk to them about heart health “so there can be more stories with endings like mine.”
This article originally appeared on TODAY.com