Champaign, Ill. (WCIA)

Heather Baker suffered a sudden cardiac arrest two years ago at Pecatonica School District, where she works as the district Curriculum Director. We get her story.

My Sudden Cardiac Arrest occurred on February 1, 2018 at Pecatonica School District in Northern Illinois, where I work as the District Curriculum Director (this is a district administration position that works alongside the Superintendent). I was 28 years old when this happened, with no pre-existing conditions and no warning signs: I lived an active lifestyle, and had played sports my entire childhood.

On 2/1/18, I walked into the district conference room for a meeting and was talking and laughing with coworkers. Suddenly, I felt extremely dizzy, and within a few seconds I dropped dead to the floor. Although teachers and school staff in Illinois are not mandated to know CPR, my coworkers were trained by the AHA only one month prior and worked together to save my life. Together, they called 911, did hands-only CPR, and shocked my heart three times with the AED. I was then transferred to a local hospital and placed into a coma. By the end of the evening, my parents and husband were told that I was probably not going to survive my coma, as less than 9% of victims survive sudden cardiac arrest due to loss of oxygen to the brain. (Victims must receive CPR/AED intervention within 4-6 minutes, before fatal brain damage occurs).

Against all odds, I woke up the next day- after spending a week in the hospital and having surgery to implant a defibrillator, I was released to go home. After another week at home recovering, I started back up at work again.

Almost immediately, I began public speaking to share my story, and have spoken at quite a few schools, businesses, and heart events. I also have become a certified CPR instructor, and have hands-only CPR trained over 500 people this month alone!

My mission and goal is for all school employees to be CPR trained– while “Lauren’s Law” in Illinois requires high school students to learn CPR, we lack a teacher mandate, which leaves me to ask legislators “Why do we expect kids to save lives but not adults?” I’m also passionate about people knowing that Sudden Cardiac Arrest is NOT the same thing a Heart Attack: Sudden Cardiac Arrest is an electrical issue in the heart, and can affect people of all heatlh, age, gender, race, etc. Sudden Cardiac Arrest does not have anything to do with clogged arteries, the way that a Heart Attack does.