Holiday Heroism: How one family will be forever “thankful” for CPR

Susan Brooks is a fitness instructor and elementary and middle school archery and track coach in Shawnee, OK. She has been AHA trained in CPR for 30 years. Susan agreed to be interviewed by the AHA CPR & First Aid Blog to share her own holiday miracle with us this season.

Susan, tell us your story.

It was Thanksgiving Day 2013. My husband, Stephen, our daughter and I were walking out the door when Stephen suddenly told me he didn’t like what I was wearing… which was bizarre. He’d never criticized my clothes before! But, OK, I went to change and was looking for a new outfit when I heard my daughter scream from the living room.

I raced in and found Stephen lying on his side across the hearth. He was having a seizure, and his body was locked-up. I was able to move him to the floor while our daughter called 9-1-1.  Once the seizure ended, I checked his vitals and couldn’t find a pulse; I started to perform Hands-Only CPR.

I performed it for what felt like a long time. I was becoming tired, but kept on as I was trained because my husband’s life depended on it. Eventually, Stephen began to move just as the paramedics entered the house. I stopped compressions, searched for a pulse, and felt a weak one as he began to resume consciousness.

Do you know what caused his heart to stop?

They discovered a brain tumor in the ER. The tumor had caused him to seize, and the seizure is what prompted the heart attack. He was taken for emergency surgery to remove the tumor, which was a success.

And after the surgery?

After he woke up, he claims that his chest was the only thing hurting. “Why does my chest hurt?” He actually asked that! “Because I saved your life!” was my reply….

Stephen spent 10 days in the hospital, and incredibly has not suffered any long-term damage. He’s doing great.

What went through your head at the time this happened?

“I can’t believe I’m doing this in my home on my husband on Thanksgiving.” It was surreal, and honestly very traumatic for our whole family. After the fact, I was able to appreciate in a completely new way all of those years of training that brought me to that exact moment.

What has been the impact on your family?

We’re very appreciative that we still have Stephen with us. My daughter now wants to go to medical school. As for me, working in my job I’ve always expected this kind of situation to happen when we were exercising—not on a holiday just walking out the door.

I cannot say enough how grateful I am for the AHA and its training. Their work developing better processes and procedures and promoting CPR education has saved countless lives, including Stephen’s.

What message would you give others this holiday?

You don’t know what you’re going to encounter in life or when, but CPR gives you the tools you need to save someone when that moment comes. What if I hadn’t known what to do in that moment and Stephen had died?

“This is what CPR means to me. That’s the impact. My husband is the one that I was meant to save.”

1 thought on “Holiday Heroism: How one family will be forever “thankful” for CPR”

  1. Real things do occur every day. It is only the understanding of the impact of training we get. The message must be clear, logical and concepts must be clear of why we are doing what we are doing.n Thanks AHA for persistence and improvements in all spheres of training!!

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