The survival rate for people who have sudden cardiac ar
rest incidents outside of a hospital is only 8%. That shockingly low statistic isn’t just something that affects the elderly – heart attacks are a leading cause of death in women under the age of 55, and young women who suffer heart attacks are nearly twice as likely to suffer long term damage or die than male victims. This is partially due to the fact that women, and their doctors, frequently don’t recognize the symptoms, which are different in women than they are in men. Women who are suffering a heart attack are likely to experience back pain, indigestion and nausea and or vomiting rather than actual chest pain.
Kaitlin Forbes was hardly even a woman when she had her sudden cardiac arrest. At age 15 Kaitlin was an active, athletic high school student who competed in three varsity sports at Rhinebeck High School in Rhinebeck, New York. ”I was 15, the only things I thought about were sports, and boys, and my friends. Death was the last thing that crossed my mind,” says Kaitlin.
Then Kaitlin collapsed on the playing field – walking pneumonia, coupled with an undiagnosed case of myocarditis (inflammation of the heart muscle), having caused her heart to stop without any warning what so ever. Lucky for Kaitlin, her school had installed an Automated External Defibrillator system only two months before and trained the faculty how to use it. That, in combination with her coach’s quick thinking and CPR training, saved Kaitlin’s life.
“I never even thought about the AED, but now I see signs for them everywhere. I guess you wouldn’t know about them until you’re affected by them.” Kaitlin says. Kaitlin, now 20, has a pacemaker and is continuing her life at a fairly normal pace. She and the mother of a teammate who was not so lucky and passed away in 2006 due to a similar condition have started a the Heart Safe Club in their hometown. Kaitlin also serves as a Heart Ambassador for the American Heart Associations‘ Be the Beat campaign, which works to train young people to deal with cardiac arrest. CPR and defibrillation training is vital for parents, teachers and teens themselves – moments can mean the difference between life and death.
Wow, watch your diet, get proper rest, train don’t strain your heart… and above all realize it can happen to you by recognizing, respecting the symptoms, and seeking medical attention before the attack occurs.
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