Cathy Young's Why

Even imperfect CPR can be miraculous.




Cathy and Dennis Young, 72 and 73, love their life in Florida. Cathy is retired and Dennis works part time at a golf course so he can play for free. They have three children, eight grandchildren “and one great-grandchild,” Cathy said proudly.

But they almost missed out on this life they love. On Sunday night June 1, 2003, they were watching TV in their new trailer on their land in Juno Beach along Florida’s east coast. The house was so new it didn’t even have a light in the front room. “Cathy was on the couch with her back to me when her arm suddenly flew up,” Dennis recalled. “That was strange, so I went over and checked on her and she was already turning blue.”

Just three months before, Dennis had learned CPR as part of his job at the golf course. He dialed 911 as he rolled her onto the floor — “From my training, I knew she had to be on a hard surface,” he said. With the cell phone still in one hand, he started pumping hard on her chest. In less than three minutes — “that’s how small Juno Beach is,” Dennis said — a policeman arrived with an AED. “He took over the CPR and shocked her twice before the fire department came with what I call the big equipment. They shocked her four more times while I stood there holding a flashlight,” Dennis said.

That got a pulse, but then they got the stretcher stuck trying to get out of the living room and ended up having to go out another door. The paramedics told Dennis that even though her heart was beating and steady, it didn’t look good.

At the hospital, she was diagnosed with cardiomyopathy, an enlarged heart, just like her father had died from in an ambulance after a heart attack at work when he was 52. Her doctors put Cathy into a coma, and two days later, they put in a pacemaker and an implantable cardioverter defibrillator. Dennis downplays his role in all this, but Cathy knows better: “Dennis saved my life.”

“I still don’t think I did it right,” Dennis said.

“Well, I’m still here,” Cathy objected. Just goes to show, that even imperfect CPR can be miraculous.

Cathy definitely believes it was a miracle that she survived: Beyond Dennis’s “not right” CPR, she cites as evidence that the Juno Beach police cars had only had AEDs for a few months — Cathy was only the third person they had used it on. “The doctor said if Dennis hadn’t seen my arm go up, if he had been in the other room, I wouldn’t have made it,” Cathy said. “He said I had less than a minute.”

 

Her second chance at life prompted Cathy to change her ways. By her own admission she had a terrible diet before and didn’t exercise. Now she eats a healthy diet, takes blood pressure medicine and swims three times a week: “I lost 30 pounds,” she said. “And even though I went to church before, I didn’t have faith, and I do now.” At her most recent checkup, the echocardiogram showed that her heart is no longer enlarged — another miracle. “I’ve done everything they told me and it’s working,” Cathy said.

Dennis was so thankful for the efforts of the police and paramedics that he volunteered to help maintain their vehicles. He also learned how to use an AED. “I hope our story inspires people to learn CPR,” he said, “because no matter how bad you perform it, it’s going to be helpful.”

“I took so many things for granted before and worried about so many silly things. That isn’t true anymore,” Cathy said. “I know God saved me for a reason. I would never have known all my grandchildren or my new great-grandbaby. If Dennis hadn’t known CPR and used it, I would have died same as my dad. I feel very lucky. Now I have faith and I have joy in living. That’s my why.”

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