Sarah Fahey is all smiles as she stands with City of Red Deer firemedics Brett Nickel

Woman thanks paramedics who saved her after cardiac arrest

A few months after a 34-year-old Red Deer woman suffered cardiac arrest in her home, she is thanking the fire medics who saved her life.

A few months after a 34-year-old Red Deer woman suffered cardiac arrest in her home, she is thanking the fire medics who saved her life.

Sarah Fahey, was playing a game on her phone when her heart stopped around 6:30 p.m. on Dec. 11.

Fahey, a local veterinarian, said she doesn’t remember anything beyond that she was waiting to check on a sick patient that evening.

Her quick thinking boyfriend, Derek Galloway, started cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) right away and called 911. Galloway works for Alberta Paramedical Services Ltd. as an emergency medical responder.

Fahey said emergency services arrived within five minutes, which is key to why she is alive today.

Fahey’s heart was started with a defibrillator before she was sent to the Red Deer Regional Hospital Centre and later Calgary’s Foothills Hospital.

Fahey spent about two weeks at the hospital undergoing test after test.

She said she never had any problems with her heart before that day in December.

A cardiac arrest occurs when there is an electrical malfunction in the heart that causes an abnormal heartbeat. A heart attack can occur when there is a blockage that prevents oxygen-rich blood from reaching the heart.

The doctors determined that she may have a genetic condition called Long QT syndrome. Fahey will undergo testing to confirm a diagnosis.

Doctors told her without the rapid defibrillation she would have died that day.

“The survival rate is only about five per cent for cardiac arrest,” said Fahey. “The key to surviving cardiac arrest is immediate CPR and defibrillation under six minutes.”

A cardioverter defibrillator was put into her chest in the chance that it happens again, the device will shock her heart.

A few weeks ago, Fahey stopped by the fire station to show her appreciation to the four-man crew – Morgan Moen, Bob Munn, Rob Walker and Brett Nickel.

“They saved my life,” she said. “It was also part of the healing process to finally get to meet them. I wanted them to know I was okay and that their efforts saved a life.”

Fahey said it was also nice for them too because they know the statistics and they usually never find out what happens to their patients.

Galloway, who comes from a family of emergency services workers, said this story isn’t about his girlfriend or him but the good work these crews do every day.

“It’s good for them to get some recognition,” said Galloway. “They do their job, drop somebody off at the hospital and that’s the end of it for them. The one guy said in his 18 years it has happened twice where someone in Sarah’s state survived. It’s rare that somebody comes in to say thank you.”

Fahey said she wants people to realize the importance of knowing CPR because the majority of cardiac arrests occur at home.

“Starting CPR right away is key to saving someone’s life,” said Fahey. “If more bystanders would do more CPR it would significantly improve survival rates from cardiac arrest.”

An hour before Fahey’s cardiac arrest, Keith Doerksen of Huxley, 53, also underwent cardiac arrest at Parkland Mall. His wife, a nurse, performed CPR before the medics arrived. Doerksen spent time at Foothills with Fahey. He is also doing well.

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