On this page and via my BLOG, I want to create awareness for Sudden Cardiac Arrests (SCA) and hopefully provide some inspiration to other survivors out there...
You can read the detailed story here but in short, on the 30th of May 2020, I dropped dead in the street...
My heart stopped beating for 19 minutes and I was declared clinically dead for 4-5 minutes.
I’m so thankful for still being here as the survival chances are less than 12%.
I just turned 50 when the incident happened and I just had done an extensive medical check-up (perfect results!) a few months prior to my incident.
To this day, nobody has an explanation why it happened… most probably "stress".
The recovery process is an ongoing battle but I'm staying positive and enjoy every extra day I am given.
It's thanks to a perfect execution of the chain of survival that I'm here to tell my story.
18 months after my incident, I did a First Response BLS-AED training.
BLS-AED stands for Basic Life Support and Automated External Defibrillator.
In Ticino, the canton where I live in Switzerland, there is a great foundation: "Ticino Cuore". They create awareness and organize training in basic cardiopulmonary resuscitation techniques and the use of defibrillators.
They have also created an innovative First Responder model (and App) based on the topics and facts outlined above. Anyone having followed the training and obtained a certificate can make themselves available on a voluntary basis. This is exactly what I did after receiving my certificate.
When a Sudden Cardiac Arrest occurs, the emergency services activate the First Responder network. First Response volunteers receive a push message on their smartphones with indications about the place where it has occurred as well as the estimated time for the ambulance to reach that specific place. If a First Responder can join the patient in a shorter time, he/she answers the call by taking action immediately. More about it here.
About 10 days after my incident I was advised to get an ICD. It's a small device, about the size of a hockey puck (see picture top right) that is being implanted under the skin. There is a wire/cable/electrode/lead attached to it which is positioned around the heart (see picture on the left). The device continuously monitors the heart and is programmed in a way that it provides a shock when certain criteria are met.
This device is supposed to be a life saver and give patients "ease of mind", however, there is no on/off button nor can press CTRL-ALT-DEL, which is not an easy thing to deal with as electronics/ICT engineer. The only thing I can do is to fully rely on the Boston Scientific engineers and hope that this thing is going to shock me if it is really needed and otherwise remain in stand-by and not unnecessarily shock me ;-)
I have a weekly monitoring plan, so each Monday I upload the data recorded by the ICD over the past 7 days to the hospital (see picture bottom right). The doctors at the hospital can see if my heart had any strange sequences over the past week, if the device is functioning well, if the battery is still OK, etc. and call me in for a visit if needed.
The battery life decreases with about 5% every 6 months. Therefore the device will have to be replaced every 7.5 to 8 years...
A lot of people ask me if I saw fields of flowers or if I saw my life passing by in a flash when I was clinically dead for 5 minutes.
For me, it was nothing like that... It was very peaceful. The lights just went out and then there was nothing. I'm not afraid of dying anymore, I just hope it will be another 50 years until it happens again ;-)
My recovery has been long and is still going on. It's a long, difficult and complex process; a mix of physical and psychological challenges.
The physical pain gradually improved after about 3 months. My ribs and the wound of the defibrillator implant healed in a few weeks. The main remaining physical disturbance is the defibrillator pushing against my ribs when I lay on my left side, or when something hits me on (or I hit something with) my left side. I really hope that I will ever get used to that as I wake up several times per night when turning on my left side. This, together with the medication, causes frequent tiredness. Apparently many survivors struggle with this and time seems to be the only solution here...
The mental consequences of a Sudden Cardiac Arrest are a whole different story! At some point the cardiologist declares you "fit", but you actually feel very far from fit. If you purely look at the heart muscle, perhaps everything seems fine again, but the brain notices the tiredness and the anxiety. Being an engineer, every phenomenon has a cause and can be explained. For me, the fact that nobody to this day can give me an explanation for why it happened is a difficult thing. If I would know a reason for the failure, I could address it and work on it. Instead, I have been told "it just happened" so there's not much that I can do with that. I started listening much more to my own body (and especially my heart). I have been told by several doctors that it is imperative to change my lifestyle and to avoid stress at all cost. It's not that easy to always avoid stress and when I end up in some stressful situation, just noticing that I am in such a situation causes even more stress as I know that it's not good for me. It's extremely easy to end up in a vicious circle which is difficult to get out from...