How I Found Peace

Our Heart Felt department highlights our readers’ experiences with heart disease from their own perspective. We’re always looking for contributions, so please send us yours. Before submitting, please review our Writer’s Guidelines.

Survivor Penny Lotterhos with her “heroes” at the Keller Fire Department

At age 69, I had no history of heart problems. I went to the gym almost daily and participated in spinning classes, water aerobics, Pilates, yoga and weight lifting. I enjoyed riding my bike, so physical activity is the norm for me. However, on Saturday, August 9, 2014, I was in my bedroom rolling up the sleeves of a blouse. Suddenly I felt dizzy and that was the last I remember. My husband, Joe, was in the garage and heard me fall. He rushed into the bedroom and found me wedged between the nightstand and the bed. He saw that I was not breathing and felt no pulse. Immediately he called 911. He grabbed my legs and pulled me out of the awkward position I was in to help the EMTs get to me more easily. I believe that move saved my life!

That pull caused vagus nerve stimulation, and I started gasping for breath and my heart started beating again. Firemen were there in minutes! I was told my pulse rate was 277, and I was in ventricular tachycardia and had to be shocked with a defibrillator immediately! Yes, it hurt, but it saved my life!

I spent the next four days in ICU and CCU, where I had a series of tests. No blockages and amazingly, no heart damage.I now have a defibrillator and a pacemaker in my chest. I have had two ablations but still have lots of premature ventricular contractions (PVCs). My ejection fraction was low on admission, but it’s normal now. I am back to doing everything Idid before my sudden cardiac arrest (SCA).

I want people to be aware that it’s not just plaque in your arteries that can cause problems; your heart has an electrical system that can cause a catastrophe when it goes haywire. I was told only 10 percent of people survive SCA because most people are usually alone when it happens. If my husband had not heard me fall, pulled me out of that position and the firemen had not arrived in minutes, I would not be writing this story!

Last August I celebrated my one year anniversary by visiting the Keller Fire Station where Corey Shumate was working. He was the fireman who shocked my heart back into rhythm. I have been by the station several times with cookies and a grocery store gift certificate. I can never say enough about this fine group of men.

I have had no problems since but still have PVCs, though the defibrillator has never gone off. I am back at the gym five days a week. Recently went off my beta blocker medication to see how I do. So far so good!

I appreciate every day I am granted. I try to thank people more often. Most of all I am grateful to know that this is not my final home. In ICU I had the peace that passes all understanding. I saw God’s hand in everything that happened. Ask my husband. He will agree.

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