Save Date: November 16, 2009
It was just an ordinary Sunday, November 16, 2008. I had my day all planned as usual, get up early to finish grades for an online class I teach at the University of Phoenix, complete my 5th grade lesson plans, go teach Sunday School at my church, and then sing in the church choir. For several weeks, I had been suffering a chronic cough, but was feeling somewhat better that morning. I had always been fearful of doctors because I pass out at the sight of a needle, so had not seen a doctor in several years.
Evidently, I stopped at Target in Lodi, just a short distance from my home, but to this day I do not know why. According to a phone call made to my mom, I told her I wasn’t feeling welland perhaps was going into Target to get something for my nausea. It is a miracle I stopped at Target, because otherwise I would have maybe been in my car or home alone when my SCA occurred. I vaguely remember calling my mother, but from that point on have no recollection of what happened. Luckily, I was spared feeling too much pain.
There happened to be one Target shopper in the restroom and she of course ran out to find an employee. In her words, “there is a customer who just collapsed in the restroom and I think she just took her last breath.” There was of course much confusion after that because the employees didn’t realize how serious it was, so they did not call 911 immediately. Evelyn Borjon, an employee stayed with me and said I was talking while Gerri Siverdes and Byron Schaffer made the decision to call emergency personnel. By the time they arrived, I was not breathing. My heart had stopped due to an SCA. CPR was administered immediately and eventually a defibrillator was administered once or twice by the first responders of AMR.
I was taken to Lodi Memorial Hospital and learned later than my heart stopped 4 more times. Each time an AED was used, but my condition did not look hopeful and if I did survived, I would most likely be brain damaged. I was placed in ICU, basically to die because the cardiologist, Dr. Eric Braunstein, felt there was nothing more that could be done. In the meantime, he conferred with Dr. Michael Fowler, the head of the cardiology transplant center, renowned speaker, and professor at Stanford University. It was decided that I would need an immediate transplant but would not survive the two-hour drive to Palo Alto, CA.
My entire family and myself are Christians so they were all praying in the family waiting room when Dr. Braunstein walked in to witness their prayers. Later, he called from home and said he wanted to fight for my life so they would transfer me to St. Joseph’s Hospital in Stockton to undergo bypass until I could get to Stanford. Plans changed though because I was too sick for surgery, in a coma, and had massive infections including Pneumonia, Pulmonary edema, and internal bleeding. I was placed on a balloon pump and for the next 10 days, it did not look hopeful. Again, I would most likely be brain damaged.
My family was encouraged by a few friends and some medical personnel to pull the plug, as there was no hope, but my two CICU nurses and Dr. Braunstein did not give up. It was decided a day after Thanksgiving to do a quadruple bypass because I woke up long enough to remember that my car registration was due and Obama had been elected president, evidence that my brain function was intact and I was worth saving.
The bypass was only partially successful because the surgeon, Dr. William Morrissey, could only do a double instead of quadruple as hoped. It was discovered I had a genetic defect with some arteries that led nowhere. I eventually came home after 3 and one half-weeks and because my sisters are nurses and live together, I was able to go to their home for recovery. Otherwise I would have been placed in a rehabilitation hospital.
Ten days after I was home from the hospital I had an IED implanted and was then able to begin cardiac rehab. A transplant was still likely, but after weeks of rehab and regulation of medications, it was decided it would not be necessary unless I have another major event. I have now met and am also under the care of Dr. Fowler, so travel to Stanford every six months.
Because my heart only functions at 15% ejection fraction, there was no possibility of returning to a normal life, but I defied all odds and completed a full year of teaching last year since the event and presently am teaching fifth grade again. I still teach Sunday school, online, and sing in my choir, Although I am just as busy, I approach each activity with a new sense of enjoyment and compassion. I do not take life for grant it and my mission is to educate the public on the necessity of CPR training and AED’s placed in all public places. I am starting a chapter of the Sudden Cardiac Arrest Association in San Joaquin Valley, a non-profit organization whose mission it is to fulfill these goals.
When I first met Dr. Fowler his comment was, “According to your tests and records, you shouldn’t be alive.” I am now known as Miracle Judy because my story gives hope to others.