Tracey Conway: Your Sweet Heart: A Survivor’s Story

Valentine’s Day. Those two words summon a lurch in my stomach and a flutter in my heart. Who among us has not suffered at least one disappointing February 14, our hearts shattered by an unappreciative or unrequited love? Some of us, however, take a broken heart to a whole other level. Literal heartbreak. I did.

Eighteen years ago, shortly before Valentine’s Day, my heart began to race chaotically and erratically fast. I got light-headed, passed out and then — I died. This is not an exaggeration. I have proof: a copy of my Medical Incident Report. Question 24 of the form asks, “Patient Condition on Arrival of First Fire Department Unit.” Two answer options are provided: (1) Alive, or (2) Dead. My report has a big circle around option two. So it’s official.

It still seems absurd that a vibrant and healthy woman in her 30s could literally drop dead within seconds of growing dizzy. That just doesn’t happen to physically active, young people who are non-smokers. Or does it? I am here to assure you — it happens! Much more often than most of you know. Sudden cardiac arrest is the leading cause of natural deaths in the United States.

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