Paul Specht's Story
More than 1.5 million Americans suffer a heart attack each year. Fifty-six year old Paul Specht is one of them. Paul’s heart attack occurred the evening after he had attended a local Pittsburgh Steelers game. He was doubled over with chest pain as his wife rushed him to the emergency room. “I felt like my chest was going to explode.” Paul understood that he had just had a serious cardiac event, but what he didn’t know was that his recent heart attack put him at risk for sudden cardiac death (SCD) – a different condition that is only preventable if treated within minutes.
The terms “heart attack” and “sudden cardiac death” (SCD) are often incorrectly used interchangeably--they are not the same. A heart attack is caused by a blockage that disrupts blood flow to the heart and causes part of the heart’s muscle to die. SCD is an electrical malfunction that causes the heart to “quiver,” not supplying enough blood to the brain to sustain life. The damaged muscle from a recent heart attack can make the heart electrically unstable, putting patients at greater risk for SCD. This was the case for Paul.
Paul’s doctors explained the seriousness of the situation, “Someone who has had damage to their heart like I did is at sudden cardiac death risk.” Before his doctor’s would allow Paul to leave the hospital, they insisted that he wear the LifeVest wearable defibrillator for protection from SCD. SCD is fatal if not treated within minutes with a timely defibrillation shock. He was instructed to wear the device 24 hours a day – taking it off only to shower. “My doctor told us that the LifeVest was a precaution to give my heart a chance to heal. It made me feel comfortable knowing that I was protected from sudden cardiac death.”
Paul’s doctor’s decision to prescribe the LifeVest saved Paul’s life. Just four days after he was released from the hospital, on the morning of his wife’s birthday, Paul was getting out of bed – he needed to remind his son to pick up a birthday card for his mother. As he stood up, he abruptly lost consciousness and collapsed to the floor. He was experiencing SCD. Paul described how “sudden” it was: “I never knew what hit me. I stood up and thought, ‘I need to sit down.’ But I never got there. The next thing I knew, I was waking up on the floor with my wife and son looking over me.”
Paul has no recollection that his LifeVest detected a life-threatening arrhythmia and provided a treatment shock that restored a normal heart rhythm and saved his life. After the treatment, Paul’s son called 911 and Paul was taken to the hospital.
The event gave Paul and his family a new perspective: “I’m truly blessed. We realize how quickly things can change, and how important it is to be better with each other each day. You don’t know when you might say ‘Good morning’ or ‘I’m home’ for the last time.” Thanks to the LifeVest, Paul and his family now have many more ‘Good mornings’ to share with each other.
Paul had two recommendations for future LifeVest patients. Firstly, he advised, “Don’t let it intimidate you. It is there to help you.” And secondly, he said to listen to your doctor: “You have to trust them. If they hadn’t given me the LifeVest, I would not be here today.”