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Vivian's Story

Tachycardia (Fast Heartbeat)



It was the spring of 1994 and Vivian’s daughter, Jennie, was graduating from the University of Wisconsin at Madison. As Vivian and her husband, Walter, were loading their car to get ready for the trip to Jennie’s graduation ceremony, Vivian suddenly fell to the garage floor.

Realizing that Vivian was not breathing, Walter reacted quickly, dialing 911. A police officer on patrol just two blocks away was on the scene in moments. Miraculously, the officer’s squad car was one of just four in their city equipped with an Automated External Defibrillator (AED).

The officer administered CPR and was preparing to use the AED. Upon arrival, the paramedics delivered a total of 13 shocks before her heart rate finally stabilized. Vivian had suffered sudden cardiac arrest. The paramedics rushed Vivian to the hospital, where she was in a coma for two days.

A Diagnosis and Implantable Heart Device

Extensive testing showed that Vivian had dilated cardiomyopathy. Dilated cardiomyopathy is a serious condition in which the heart muscle becomes weakened and loses strength to pump blood throughout the body. The weakened heart cannot pump as much blood out, so more blood remains in the heart after each heartbeat. As greater amounts of blood fill and remain in the heart’s lower chambers (ventricles), the ventricles expand. In time, the heart muscle stretches out of shape (dilates) and becomes weaker.

After a full evaluation, Vivian’s cardiologist recommended an implantable defibrillator as the best treatment option for her. If she were to experience sudden cardiac arrest again, the heart device would deliver shock therapy, attempting to protect her from sudden cardiac death (SCD). Vivian agreed with her doctor’s recommendation and went on to receive an implantable defibrillator.

Her “Guardian Angel”

Since her implant, Vivian’s heart device has delivered lifesaving shock therapies. “If I didn’t have my implantable defibrillator – my guardian angel – I may have missed my daughter’s wedding and the birth of my grandchildren.”

Looking back, she is now convinced that her father, who died suddenly when she was 11, suffered from the same condition.

Vivian continues to work, maintains a healthy diet, and exercises regularly. Making healthy lifestyle choices took on new importance after her experience with sudden cardiac arrest. She is thankful that advancements in technology have enabled her to enjoy her husband, Walter, and children, Jennie and David, as well as her grandchildren.

To those considering an implantable heart device, Vivian says, “If your doctor recommends it, you should do it – it’s an opportunity to save your life.”

This story reflects one person's experience. Not every person will receive the same results. Talk to your doctor about your treatment options.