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When the Heart Stops ~ a Christmas Miracle

A week ago today, just before midnight, my daughter's heart stopped.

For seven minutes.

When I got the call telling me, I felt like my heart had stopped.

So much has happened in one week, I can hardly process it all, so I'm going to use this blog format to help myself do that. For those who don't want all the details, as the title of this post says, we were given a Christmas miracle and our twenty-seven-year-old daughter survived.

Our son Levi calls in the early morning hours of December 20, 2021 to tell me our daughter Tasia has suffered a cardiac arrest. Our son Jordan is with him. The two of them along with Tasia and Jordan's fiancé Chelsea live in the same house in Kelowna BC. My husband Norm and I are snow birding in Mexico. I'm thousands of miles away.

In a very fragile moment, Norm and I hold each other and pray, “Lord we trust you with your daughter, no matter what.”

If you've followed my blogs for a while, you might know that Tasia has an autoimmune condition called Scleroderma, a rare disease which causes hardening of the skin and can involve the internal organs. In her case, she has lung involvement, and only 50% capacity.

Unbelievably, the doctors now believe this is a separate heart condition, unrelated to that.

Downstairs, Jordan and Chelsea hear a bang, which they later learned was the sound of Tasia falling to the floor. Upstairs, Levi's new Mexican rescue dog is barking uncharacteristically. Levi thinks it's because Tasia came home with a friend. Now we know the dog, a border collie mix called Ernie, was trying to alert Levi to trouble.

Minutes later, Levi and Jordan see the lights of two ambulances and a fire truck pull into the yard. Levi dashes to Tasia's room to find C.T.~the angel in this story~performing CPR. Jordan rushes upstairs just as the paramedics arrive. They can't see what's happening, but they hear the paramedics say, “no pulse.” Then the sound of the paddles and defibrillator.

Terrified, the boys believe their sister has died.

And they weren't wrong. She was without a heartbeat for seven long minutes, possibly longer one doctor told us. If it weren't for the fact that she was with a friend who knew CPR, who kept his head and called 911, who didn't give up compressing my daughter's chest for what must've felt like forever, this story would have had a very different ending.

Tasia's heart is revived and she's wheeled away on the gurney.

That's when I got the call.

Levi went to the hospital to do the hard work of waiting, texting me every time the doctors came in with news.

It was a very long night.

She's unconscious. She's sedated She's intubated.

But she's alive.

Initially, the doctors theorized that Tasia had had a seizure that had led to cardiac arrest. Her brain health was of immediate concern. Tasia without her delightful, witty, caring, intelligent personality would be its own kind of devastating loss.

But, after a CT scan, an EEG, and an MRI, tests done that night and the next day, there was no sign of brain bleed, swelling, infection or stroke. When they turned off the sedation for brief moments, she responded to commands to squeeze a hand and wiggle toes. After more tests the new theory is she experienced a heart event that initially mimicked a seizure.

In the meantime, back in Mexico, Norm and I are racing to get a PCR test, and packing up our RV to secure it while we're gone, and book a one way ticket home. Sometime, as we're flying over the western coast of North America, Tasia was brought out of sedation. She's awake!

Our sons are with her and I wish I was there, but I'm so happy for the news. She's groggy from the sedation, and “loopy” but still her “sassy” self.

We get into Kelowna after midnight, and drive to the hospital to see her for the first time on the morning of the 22nd.

Tasia is suffering significant short term memory loss, but we're assured that this is normal after intubation and sedation. Later that day she's moved from ICU to CCU, the cardiac intensive care wing.

We're told by one of the cardiac specialists that Tasia's case is causing a lot of excitement on the ward. She's very young to have suffered cardiac arrest and the cause is still inconclusive. Tasia quipped, “I'm an episode of House.”

The primary culprit is Ventricular Fibrillation.

On Christmas Eve, Tasia has a defibrillator inserted. The pamphlet explaining the device assures Tasia that she can resume physical activity like “gardening, playing with grandchildren, and golf.”

Good to know!

Christmas morning, she's released from the hospital.

Talk about a whirlwind week of extreme emotion and rapid turnaround.

Pre op

From nearly losing her life, Tasia now has a built-in paramedic that will shock her heart should she suffer another heart event. She's on new meds to hopefully prevent the need for that to ever happen. Apparently, her heart isn't any worse off than before. Her brain function is undamaged. The worse thing to come from it is she can't drive for six months. (Which is a pain, but hey…)

More than one heart specialist has said that her recovery is REMARKABLE. Most people who suffer an event like this and to this degree don't survive.

“A Christmas miracle,” Tasia said. The doctor nodded. “Yes, a Christmas miracle.”

***

A super huge shout out to the paramedics, the incredible doctors and nurses at Kelowna General Hospital who gave our daughter the best care and attention, to the Canadian Health Care System, and to C.T. for playing a huge role in saving our daughter's life. You are all HEROS in our books.