Driving in Atlanta last May, she went into sudden cardiac arrest.
The notion of losing complete control on an open road is horrifying enough. But considering her young age – 42 – it’s that much more shocking.
Also surprising is the notion that Jenny doesn’t remember a thing about the entire day. Not the emails she’d sent for work that morning, the phone calls, the visit to a chiropractor to adjust her aching back. She doesn’t remember the ride, nor the moment she dipped down in her seat.
Thankfully, a driver in another car saw Jenny go into medical arrest. She dialed 911, and a nearby police car arrived on the scene in moments. Breaking through the passenger side, they dragged Jenny to the road and administered CPR. She does not remember any of those moments – and most especially, not the moment her heart stopped. Nor the one where it started again.
She awoke in a hospital room the following Saturday.
“There is no question that everything went as it needed to in order for me to be here today,” she says. Indeed, her survival hinged on the awareness of a bystander. “I’m not sure I would have been that person,” she says, and most would agree. “I read over my police report all the time. I had minutes. And they counted down fast.”
What brought her to that fateful day? She credits a series of events, both big and small. And a host of symptoms she’d ignored for what turned out to be too long.
At the time of her accident, Jenny had emerged from a few difficult years trying to right a bad business deal. The episode left her “extremely stressed out.” Family members were concerned, as they’d never seen her so frazzled. That business challenge, coupled with a full time job in ad sales (which can be high-pressure), piled on. “I held too much in. It was all way too overwhelming, I just gave up. Quit going to the gym, wasn’t eating right and gained 40 pounds in a year.”
The day of her cardiac arrest, Jenny was vising her parents for their 50th anniversary celebration. Her back hurt, and she suspected she was coming down with the flu. For months, she’d been more tired than usual. A persistent, “weird” cough would come and go, but she talked it up to Charleston allergies.
Waking up in the hospital, she realized ignoring her health had truly almost cost her life. Logging into Facebook after a week in a coma, she found scores of messages from people worldwide, who were praying for her. “That was a real eye-opener.”
Back in the swing of things today, she realizes she’s incredibly fortunate. “Crazy as it sounds, it was meant to be. My A-Ha moment has been great. I’m such a loud mouth, that I’m the perfect person to tell everyone to get CPR certified, to go to the doctor.”
Proof point: every member of her family is now CPR certified.
Heading back to Atlanta soon, Jenny hopes to find the woman who saved her life with that 911 call. She also wants to connect to a young woman whose car she grazed as she blacked out, just to let her know she’s fine.
Longer term, she’ll advocate for women’s health.
“I have so many girlfriends who have kids and jobs and are running the household. So many women my age take on more than they used to, so they plan to go to the doctor later.
“But this is the #1 killer, and it can’t be ignored. Otherwise, they may not have later.”
Know your story. Know your power. Take the first step at www.goredforwomen.org.