Updated 09/03/2012 05:00 AM
Healthy Living: Portable defibrillator saves woman's life
Life can change in a heartbeat. That's something a Churchville woman knows all too well. Plagued by a heart condition her whole life she credits a portable piece of technology with saving her life.
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CHURCHVILLE, N.Y -- Like any proud mother, Karen Wallace keeps her pictures and her memories close to her heart.
In September, Karen's son is getting married. It's a moment Karen almost missed.
"My heart was beating faster than it had ever beaten before in my life," said Karen.
A week after Karen turned 60, a lifelong problem with irregular heartbeats skipped out of control. Karen collapsed and was rushed to the hospital, where Dr. Christine Tompkins noticed something was wrong.
"We could see an extra beat occur and it would set off a series of other beats that can be associated with sudden death,” Dr. Tompkins said.
A cardiac MRI was performed to see if Karen's heart had any structural damage. While she waited for the results, Karen started feeling much better.
"I wanted to be released, because I felt fine," explained Karen.
Dr. Tompkins said she could go home if she wore a Zoll lifevest. It’s a portable device that can detect a life-threatening heartbeat and shock the heart back into rhythm.
"I said to myself, I don't know why I'm wearing this. It will probably never go off."
Ten hours after Karen left the hospital, it did go off. Karen went into cardiac arrest.
After a trip to the emergency room she learned it worked perfectly saving her life. Karen now has an internal defibrillator and will have heart surgery to correct the problem. She's grateful for the chance to celebrate a new memory.
Karen said, "I want to be there so I can dance with him, and thank God I did have the vest on, because I truly believe it saved my life."