MY NAME IS KATRYSHA AND CPR SAVED MY LIFE.
Two weeks after my 30th birthday I collapsed at work due to sudden cardiac arrest. With no health issues, warning signs, or apparent reason my heart simply stopped beating. Two of my colleagues, Salma Belhaffaf and Valerie Woods, saved my life because they knew what to do in an emergency. Without hesitation, one called 911 and the other started CPR immediately.
The first responders, by sheer coincidence, happened to be a team of firemen who had finished a call nearby and arrived within minutes. Miracles are real and luck is nothing to scoff at. Every moment was a matter of life or death and every decision was significant. I was in the right place at the right time. But more importantly, my colleagues knew the life-saving measures to take that gave me another chance at life, and ultimately changed the course of it.
My story has been told to me in pieces by the people who helped me. It’s been a journey putting together some of the most critical minutes of my life in order to understand why I’m able to be here today.
Andrew van den Elshout, Robert Landry, Louis-Simon Amyot and Mathieu-Luc Pinard, from Station 33, Group 1 were the firemen on-site. They arrived quickly and delivering two shocks with a defibrillator, which restarted my heart. Months later, when I was able to meet with Andrew, he told me that out of the 200 people he's shocked with a defibrillator, only three survived, including me. That bewildering statistic is something that stops me in my tracks daily.
Not long after the fireteam restarted my heart, two incredible paramedics; Dave Viau and Stéphane Gendron, took care of me and rushed me to the hospital where doctors ran tests to try and determine what caused this. I was in an induced coma for two days and during that time I had a support system of people who were there with me around the clock, including a fantastic medical team who gave me boundless care and reassurance to my family.
Over the month and a half during my initial recovery—and still to this day— I've had love and support from my family, friends, colleagues, boss, and neighbours. As well as great follow up care from the capable doctors, nurses, hospital staff and first responders. I was given the gift of a second chance, the gift of heart beats, and the gift to fully see and appreciate the amazing community I have.
To this day it's still not clear what caused this to happen or why, despite countless tests. My doctors know that I experienced a very dangerous arrhythmia which caused my heart to stop beating. My treatment has included medication to regulate my heart beats and the placement of an ICD (Implantable Cardioverter Defibrillator) in my chest.
Every day I think of how miraculous it was for me to survive this— to have every person, every minute, every choice connect and harmonize as it did to create a net that saved me. The tie that binds the net though is everyone in that situation knew what to do in an emergency, and they did it without hesitation. They were knowledgeable and aware of CPR practices. If was first aid training that saved me. The spirit of this situation kickstarted a good feedback loop within and inspired me to pay it forward by teaching others about lifesaving measures. CPR training truly saves lives. I’m living proof.