Andy Graber's Story
The terms “heart attack” and “sudden cardiac arrest” (SCA) are commonly confused. They are different conditions, but can be related. Patients who have recently had a heart attack, like 50-year-old Andy Graber, may be at increased risk for SCA. For these patients, the LifeVest wearable defibrillator is a treatment option that can provide life-saving therapy.
Similar to a blocked drain or pipe in a house, a heart attack is caused by a blockage that disrupts blood flow to the heart muscle. Like a blocked pipe, there are often signs and symptoms of the problem. Andy Graber was alone in his home the night of his heart attack. As he recalls, “I had severe pain in my left side. I had dry heaves, a migraine, chest pains, and was hardly able to dial 911.” Luckily, Andy was able to call for help. He was rushed to the hospital and received two stents (metal tubes used to prop open arteries) to restore vital blood flow. The procedure was successful, but the heart attack had damaged Andy’s heart muscle.
The heart has its own electrical system. In some cases, the damaged tissue from a heart attack can cause interference with the way the electricity is conducted in the heart and lead to SCA. SCA occurs when an electrical malfunction causes the heart to “quiver,” becoming unable to supply enough blood to the brain to sustain life. Unlike the “plumbing problem” of a heart attack that has warning signs and symptoms, sudden cardiac arrest is like a power outage – it occurs without any warning. SCA is fatal if not treated within minutes. For every minute that passes after the occurrence of SCA, the chances of surviving diminish by 10 percent.
In Andy’s case, his heart was only pumping at half of its normal strength after his heart attack. To protect him after he was discharged from the hospital, Andy’s doctor recommended that he wear the LifeVest. He was instructed to wear the device around the clock. It would continuously monitor Andy’s heart, and if it detected a life-threatening heart rhythm, the device would deliver a treatment shock to “reset” his heart’s electrical system and restore a normal heart rhythm.
The LifeVest gave Andy peace of mind. “When I left the hospital, I didn’t have to worry,” he noted. “I knew the LifeVest would protect me right away.”
Three days later, Andy was asleep in the early hours of the morning when, without warning, he did suffer a sudden cardiac arrest. Andy’s LifeVest detected the life-threatening arrhythmia and delivered three treatment shocks that ultimately restored his normal heart rhythm and saved his life.
Andy regained consciousness shortly after the treatment and his wife called 911. He was transported to the hospital for follow up and continued to wear the LifeVest. Later that evening, he suffered another sudden cardiac arrest in the hospital. Like most SCA victims, Andy lost consciousness in a split-second: “I remember trying to say, ‘you better get the nurse,’ but those words never left my lips.” Again, he was treated by the LifeVest, and it saved his life.
“I think about all of the things I like to do in my life, and I almost lost all of it,” Andy reflected. For recent heart attack victims, the LifeVest can provide protection from SCA and peace of mind during their recovery. “The heart attack got my attention,” Andy recalls, “I was looking for any tool to help me through this difficult time. For me, the LifeVest not only saved my life but also provided a sense of security.”