Doctor and patient discuss the patient's condition

Tracey's Story

Tachycardia (Fast Heartbeat)

On January 21, 1995, Tracey died. The evening began quite normally, or so she's been told. (She has no memory of the events of that night, or most of that following week.) She had just completed a live audience taping of her television show called Almost Live! Standing among the other actors onstage, she murmured, "I don't feel too...," and then collapsed. More than a hundred people laughed. It was a comedy sketch spoofing ER, after all. They didn't know that Tracey was experiencing sudden cardiac arrest. They assumed it was simply an actor's pratfall. No one dreamed a vibrant and healthy woman in her thirties would literally drop dead in front of them. Fellow cast members knew that Tracey's nose-dive wasn't planned. Following the initial flurry of fear and confusion, they called 911, Tracey received CPR and ultimately, she received defibrillation.

After more CPR, intravenous cardiac drugs, and six defibrillator shocks from an automated external defibrillator (AED), the medics restored a viable heartbeat. Next came eight days of exceptional hospital and surgical care. At last, Tracey was released, equipped with her own lifesaving equipment: an implantable defibrillator embedded in her chest, monitoring every beat of her heart. Today Tracey has a more technologically advanced implantable defibrillator, programmed to deliver a lifesaving shock if she again experiences ventricular fibrillation, one of the most fatal of all heart arrhythmias.

"Much of what has changed is my appreciation of life's priorities, the necessity to partner with my health care providers in my treatment and my responsibility to honor my thoughts and feelings, not to squelch them simply to avoid conflict or uncomfortable situations," Tracey says. "I believe stress induced adrenaline was definitely a factor in my heart's short 'circuiting.' Of course, humor has been a large part of my healing. It's more than my job. It's my legacy."


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