It was a regular summer day in July for Mark and Lerinda Pierce.They ended their day with a walk after dinner in their neighborhood, not knowing their lives would change in a matter of hours.
Around 2:30 a.m. on Sunday, July 31st, 2022, Mark was awakened by pain in his knee caused by an old injury. “As I laid awake, trying to go back to sleep, I heard my wife making unusual noises,” said Mark. “After attempting to wake her up, I turned on the bedroom light and discovered she was not breathing, and I couldn't find a pulse. I realized she was suffering a sudden cardiac arrest.”
While on the phone with 911, Mark started CPR. Within minutes, Murfreesboro Police, Fire Station 11’s rescue crew, and Rutherford County EMS arrived. They applied the automated external defibrillator (AED) to return Lerinda’s heart to a stabilized rhythm, and she was quickly loaded into the ambulance and transported to Ascension Saint Thomas Rutherford Hospital. They began several days of waiting while Lerinda was sedated and intubated. Her body temperature was dropped to protect her brain function.
On Wednesday, August 3rd, the sedation was slowly turned off, and they waited for an indication of how she would respond. “We were thrilled to see that Lerinda was able to communicate and understand commands,” said Mark. “Our prayers for her survival had been answered.” After doing a heart catheterization, the team discovered an 80% blockage in Lerindas heart. They inserted a stent in her heart and equipped her with a LifeVest Wearable Defibrillator, which is used to control dangerously fast heart rhythms by applying an electrical shock to the heart.
Lerinda was sent home from the hospital on Saturday, August 6th, under the care of Dr Muhammad Malik, cardiologist at Ascension Saint Thomas Rutherford Hospital. “Due to my cracked sternum from my husband and the emergency team performing CPR, the life vest was too painful to wear,” said Lerinda. “I decided to take it off to give myself a break. Two days later, while we were sitting in our living room talking, my heart entered an abnormal arrhythmia, and I suffered sudden cardiac arrest again.” “The scene played out like the event just nine days before, and once again, we were fighting for her life,” said Mark. “As the responding Fire Department Rescue crew entered my house, I realized it was the same crew that had responded to the first event.”
For a second time, Lerinda’s survival would be determined by the care of the same group of men she had never met. “I woke up while in the ambulance and just started crying,” said Lerinda. “While in the hospital, I experienced four additional arrhythmia episodes, which allowed Dr. Peter Robertson, cardiac electrophysiologist at Ascension Saint Thomas Rutherford to diagnose my issue, prescribe medications, and insert an implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD) to correct the problem.” An ICD is a battery-powered device placed under the skin that keeps track of one's heart rate. Thin wires connect the ICD to the heart. If an abnormal heart rhythm is detected, the device will deliver an electric shock to restore a normal heartbeat.
“This is my new normal,” said Lerinda. “Before this, I walked six to eight miles a day, my blood pressure was in normal range, and I have no family history of heart disease. It has been hard to accept, but I am so thankful for the way things turned out. God spared my life, but Mark and all the medical staff saved my life.”
Lerinda was released from the hospital on August 12th and is making a full recovery. “We just want everyone to be educated and aware of CPR and AED,” said Mark. “It’s so important to know these simple steps so you, too, can save a life.”