Saved by AEDs, two area women spreading the word about warning signs of heart problems.
Saved by AED and quick thinking by bystanders
June 14, 2009
Cheri Kalas and Mary Wenclawski are tied by an experience they each thought was unique to them. They are both in their 50s, slim, eat healthy and keep fit. But both suffered cardiac arrest while exercising and were brought back from the jaws of death by automatic external defibrillators.
Now they are helping the American Heart Association to warn women of the danger signs of cardiac arrest.
Cheri Kalas and Mary Wenclawski both recently were saved by automatic external defibrillators on the scene where they suffered cardiac arrest. Both also are patients of cardiologist Dr. Alan Brown of Edward Hospital. Submitted by Hilary Decent
"I had seen my doctor about a burning in my chest," Mary, 56, recalls. "I went to a cardiologist for tests, but they showed nothing wrong. They said it was just acid reflux."
Mary, who lives in Lisle, has been a member of the Naperville Tennis Club for 20 years. In April, she was playing tennis when she suffered cardiac arrest in the middle of a match.
"I don't remember anything," she said. "I was playing tennis. The next thing I knew was I was in the hospital. It was scary for everybody but me, because I didn't know what had happened."
Mary's life was saved by tennis club owner Jim Boyle, who used an AED machine to shock her heart.
"His calm and collect manner saved my life," she said. "It was only the second time he had used it."
Mary was rushed to Edward Hospital, where they placed two stents in her arteries. By the time she came around, she felt fine. She's now planning to take part in a 5K American Heart Association Walk in Chicago in September.
"I'm still feeling very lucky," she said. "Women don't put themselves first. I just had a discomfort. Not a severe pain, but I downplayed it as so many women do."
Cheri is a substitute teacher who lives in Oswego. She and Mary share the same cardiologist, Dr. Alan Brown of Edward Hospital in Naperville.
"I was getting ready to run a 5K race in Stonebridge on April 29, 2007," Cheri said. "The last thing I remember was lining up, then I woke up in the hospital. I had had a cardiac arrest after running maybe 30 yards. It wasn't as scary for me as my family. I just woke up and thought 'what's going on?'"
Cheri said she was lucky off-duty Battalion Chief Don Davids was nearby to revive her with an AED. His actions later won him the title of Aurora Fireman of the Year.
"I was only 50 at the time," Cheri said. "They didn't know what caused it. The doctors ruled out genetics. I wasn't overweight, and I was a smoker. I was the poster child of good cholesterol ... but I had pain down my left arm, which should have told me something."
After her cardiac arrest, doctor's discovered she had a 90 percent blockage in an artery commonly known as a "widow maker" in men. A stent was fitted, and she is now fine.
She warns women that symptoms can be different to those men suffer. A burning in the chest, back, neck and jaw pain can be warning signs, too.
"As women we want to take care of everyone else, but I would urge women to take care of themselves, too," she said.
Cheri says only 6.4 percent of people who have heart attacks outside of a hospital survive.
"If you don't have CPR or have an AED get to you in the first eight seconds, it's too late," she said.
"What we received was truly a gift, and I don't want to waste it. I used to worry about things. Now I'm content just to do my best and not sweat it."
"You really do have to step back and smell the roses," she said. "I enjoy taking the time to enjoy something small. I always used to be in a hurry, because I didn't want to waste time. Now I'm happy to spend more time on things."
Hilary Decent would like to hear your stories about great women in the community. E-mail her at email@example.com.
Naperville, Illinois (IL) - Edward Hospital and Health Services