Cardiac arrest survivor pushing for awareness

By Brady Talbert / Staff Writer

When Stephanie Douglas’ heart stopped beating, everything went blank. At one moment she was socializing over the table, and the next she was in an ambulance.

In October 2017, Stephanie Douglas had a sudden cardiac arrest at the Champy’s restaurant in Alabaster. By chance, a nurse was at the restaurant and performed CPR until the paramedics could arrive with an AED, or an automated external defibrillator, to shock Douglas’ heart into beating again.

Cardiac arrest, often mistaken for a heart attack, is when the heart malfunctions and stops beating due to an electrical problem, according to the American Heart Association. Annually, the AHA reports more than 356,000 out-of-hospital cardiac arrests, with 90 percent of those cases ending fatally. “I’m very thankful to be in the top 10 percent,” Douglas said, expressing that “those numbers have just stuck with me.”

Douglas said she had no real warning signs, other than headache and slight dizziness. “This thing that happened in October was a fluke,” she said, adding that she thanks “the Lord for the people who started CPR.” The AHA reports that 25 percent of adults will have no symptoms leading up to cardiac arrest, just like Douglas. She said, “if there are more people trained, the survival rate will start to increase,” which is why Douglas wants to spread awareness.

Douglas has brainstormed several ideas on how to raise awareness, which have hit her all of a sudden. She has been thinking about ways to place more AEDs in public places, whether she needs to go through the AHA or purchase them herself. The survivor plans to become a certified CPR and AED instructor, teaching the average person on how to save a life.

Recently, she has just set up a heart walk team at heartwalk.org called “Steph’s Heart Squad.” She said “anybody can make a donation” by accessing the link, with funds going toward the AHA. Douglas is in talks with the city of Alabaster trying to lock down a date for a 5k run at Veterans Park. She is aiming for October, the month she had her cardiac arrest, which is also Sudden Cardiac Arrest Awareness Month.