“The stars aligned that day”

- Julia Sims

Ventria Survivor Story by Julia Sims

Recovering from what she believed was a bad case of the flu, Greensboro, North Carolina, resident Julia Sims, sat up in bed one Spring morning and assured her husband of 37 years that she would be fine and insisted that he keep his standing golf game. She then turned to her daughter and convinced her to spend the day shopping. It was Saturday, March 19, 2011. A day Julia Sims’s daughter and husband would like to forget, and one she would never remember.

The tests came back normal

The 57-year-old wife, mother and grandmother, says her health problems started in November 2010. “My company was going through a merger so I chalked up the intense pain in my back, shoulders and neck, indigestion, and extreme fatigue to working long hours.” Julia continues, “I had always considered myself a pretty healthy person. I was never one for going to the doctor or taking medications, other than the occasional aspirin. But in January 2011, after two months of not feeling well I decided to see my primary care physician.” Julia’s doctor ran an electrocardiogram (EKG) and even though it was negative, recommended that she see a cardiologist. “I had a number of tests, including a stress test,” recalls Julia. “The cardiologist sat in the room with me and told me that everything looked fine and that he hoped that I got to feeling better soon. Unfortunately, my symptoms persisted.”

I knew something was terribly wrong

Julia’s husband, Jeff Sims, and their daughter Brett, grew concerned as weeks passed and Julia’s health and energy continued to deteriorate. “Julia had come home early from work on Thursday, thinking she had the flu. Brett stayed home with her on Friday. On Saturday morning she told us that she was feeling much better. I even let her convince me to go golfing.” Jeff continues, “I typically stay and have lunch with my golf buddies but I decided to go home and check on Julia.” Across town, Brett picked up her phone, “My mom called and asked if I could bring her some soup, which was a good sign that her appetite was back.”

Brett and her father pulled into their driveway within seconds of each other. They both went upstairs to check on Julia. “She was sitting up in bed,” recalls Brett. “I handed her the soup, we chatted for a few minutes, and then I went downstairs.”

Jeff says he started to joke with Julia in hopes of raising her spirits. “She told me she had taken a shower and that she was feeling better,” says Jeff. “I turned to put my shoes in the closet. When I turned back around Julia was sitting in the bed with her head down. I walked over and gently raised her head. That’s when I knew something was terribly wrong.” Jeff continues, “She was unresponsive. Her eyes were set and she wasn’t breathing.”

Julia had fallen victim to sudden cardiac arrest (SCA).

I am not giving up on you

Jeff yelled to his daughter as he raced downstairs to find his phone. “Brett attempted mouth-to-mouth breathing on her mom as I called 9-1-1.” Jeff says he had absolutely no Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR) training and was thankful that the 9-1-1 operator helped him stay calm as she coached him through it. “I kept talking to Julia, telling her, ‘no, you’re not going to leave me this way, I am not giving up on you’.”

As Jeff performed CPR on his wife, a crew from Pinecroft Sedgefield Fire Department (PSFD), Station 23 was dispatched. Ed Hampton, a Firefighter II and EMT with PSFD, was at the station when the call came in. “I am a volunteer firefighter and, as I often do, stopped by the station to help the guys out. I wasn’t there more than 15 minutes when our alert tone sounded for a 9-Echo-I, which is the code for full cardiac arrest.”

According to PSFD reports, the time from dispatch to arrival was three minutes and eleven seconds. “When we arrived on scene we saw Jeff performing dispatcher-assisted CPR on his wife as she lay in the bed. Two of my firefighters moved Julia to the floor and continued CPR while I turned on our Philips HeartStart FRx Automated External Defibrillator (AED) and placed the pads on Julia.” According to Ed, the FRx advised a shock and the shock was delivered.

“The first shock was unsuccessful. So we performed CPR for two minutes and then delivered the second shock”

recalls Ed. Unable to establish a rhythm, another round of CPR was performed. Ed delivered a third shock and was in the middle of CPR when the Emergency Medical Services providers (EMS) arrived. “The paramedics took over and used a manual defibrillator to deliver three more shocks. After the sixth shock, we did regain a rhythm and detect a pulse.”

After nearly 45 minutes of working on Julia, the lead paramedic determined she was stable enough to transport to Moses Cone Hospital.

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After 10 minutes the chance of survival is less than 5%. Having an AED available is better than only waiting for the emergency services.