Survival from cardiac arrest - Emma Robilliard McRae’s Story
Thursday 14 April 2016 started the same as always. I left home to take my 2 year old son Henry to his day carer and drove to work. I am a teacher of Grade 2 students. A lot of what happened that day is lost in my memory but what was to happen that afternoon would change my life.
My last memory was making plans to meet a friend, Hannah, after school for a coffee catch up. My next memory is Saturday 16 April 2016. I was in hospital and it was my 5th wedding anniversary andhad no memory of anything that had happened
On Thursday after I had left work, I went to our local Aldi store and I have been told that I got to the back of the store when a lady heard me say that I didn't feel well and thought I was going to faint. I collapsed to the floor landing face down.
Witnesses assumed I had fainted and tried to make me comfortable. Several minutes passed before a staff member realised from the colour of my skin colour that it was far more serious. I was not breathing - there was no sign of life. Two life-saving staff members performed CPR tirelessly for approximately 8 minutes until the ambulance arrived.
Unfortunately, the shopping centre defibrillator could not be found.
Paramedics needed to deliver two shocks to restart my heart and they quickly transported me to Sunshine Hospital.
My friend Hannah was waiting for me outside the store and watched in shock as I was wheeled past. She immediately contacted my father and arranged for my son to be collected from day care. She was the angel who drove my mum to the hospital and returned to stay with my dad and son at my home.
The paramedics had called my husband who was stuck in gridlock traffic. My brother phoned him and directed him on how to get to the hospital.
My injuries included cracked ribs, cracked sternum, bruised lung and retrograde amnesia from the lack of oxygen to the brain. None of the many tests, including CAT scan, angiogram, Xray, MRI of brain and heart, echocardiograms, revealed any explanation for the cardiac arrest. Luckily, or unluckily, I have no memory of my time in Emergency and when I woke up two days later, I was on the ward.
The doctors and my family gently broke the news to me that I had had a cardiac arrest.
The doctors gently explained what had happened and I came to learn how incredibly lucky I was to be alive. I couldn't get my head around the fact that my heart had stopped and I had been clinically dead. I am 33 years old and perfectly healthy. I cried with total disbelief and shock. I learnt that my first words after regaining consciousness at the shops were 'where's Henry?' who wasn't with me.
After 15 days in hospital I became the second person in Victoria to get a new second generation defibrillator inserted into my chest. Unlike the first generation model, this device is less invasive and is called a subcutaneous implantable cardioverter defibrillator (S-ICD) .It sits under the skin just under my arm, rather than under the collar bone and is remotely monitored by doctors through a device that sits next to my bed.
Two days later, I was discharged and have continued to recover, although my internal defibrillator has shocked me again in July.
Physically, my recovery has gone very well with everything healing nicely and the device downloading perfectly! Emotionally, I struggle knowing that my heart stopped and I was so close to losing my life. I can't help but think about all the circumstances that changed to ensure that I was in a public spot to receive lifesaving treatment quickly. The alternative would have resulted in death if I had been on my own at home.
I am proud to say my school now has an AED and my local shopping centre has now installed one in the food court. It makes me feel my event has made a difference.
I certainly owe my life to two wonderful people and am so lucky to still be here for my gorgeous son, husband, family and friends.