Austin's Story - My Brush With Death
Rewind about 15 years and I was just a regular kid who was way too competitive. I had a natural talent for sports and focused my time on soccer, where I played on a competitive club team and won 3 regional championships at Santa Margarita Catholic High School in southern California.
I continued my soccer career at Ohio State, and was fortunate to start every game of my 4-year college career. As a freshman I was grateful to lead the team in goals while winning a Big Ten Championship. After being a team captain and 3-time All-Big Ten selection, I wanted to pursue other passions in the field of nutrition and integrative medicine where I am today, focused on preventing chronic disease through lifestyle interventions.
Now with my sports story out of the way, I want to share with you the day that changed my life forever. In the hopes of spreading awareness and potentially saving other lives.
January 17, 2018
I went running with my friend Ana to train for an upcoming Spartan Race. About 5 minutes into our run, I told her my chest felt tight and just like that, I collapsed to the street without warning. No signs, no symptoms, no anything. My heart stopped and I went into sudden cardiac arrest.
Just like that, in a flash, my life was almost over.
She immediately called 911 and about a minute later, a good Samaritan (Erick, now a great friend) driving by pulled over to help a stranger and start CPR. The firefighters arrived about 4 minutes after the 911 call, reviving me after the second attempt with the AED (defibrillator).
I was rushed to the hospital where my body rejected sedation and any IVs, so they were
forced to put me into a medically induced coma for over 24 hours.
After waking up, you could imagine I was in shock about everything because I have no recollection of the entire event (which is a good thing). I was diagnosed with a genetic heart condition called hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, which is prevalent in young athletes and one of the leading causes of death for people under 30. A thickened left heart ventricle, and something that is extremely dangerous because there are no signs or symptoms until it’s too late. I never experienced any issues my entire soccer career, and I never had my heart screened when I played at Ohio State. Currently there is no known treatment or cure. I was told I need to have a defibrillator installed in my chest to prevent any future events. I will most likely need an ICD for the rest of my life and have surgery every 6-8 years to install a new device. A week later I had a subcutaneous ICD installed under my left arm with a wire attached to my heart. It definitely took some getting used to, but I’ve fully
recovered and am back to my normal workouts and routine. Throughout this process, I have definitely learned a lot and had much time to reflect.
I’ve learned we can’t control how much time we have here on Earth, so I want to focus on doing things that make me happy and those around me. I am part of the 10% of people who survive cardiac arrest, and I am so grateful. I want to encourage all of us to start living the life we want. I’ve decided to look at the positives in everything. It may sound weird, but this is one of the best things that has ever happened to me.
It’s allowed me to wake up, allowed me to choose happiness, allowed me to live in the present. The positive news is I have a cool story to share, chicks dig scars, and I never need to walk through a metal detector again. Stop putting off goals and ambitions in life because “we will eventually get to them.” I told myself for years I wanted to learn how to dance, yet always made excuses and said “I’ll get to it someday.”
I share my story to encourage you to live the life you want. And to spread awareness about silent heart diseases that are more common than we think. Even for those who seem completely healthy. These undetected heart conditions can happen to anyone. Take preventative measures by
having your heart screened, especially for children. There is a charity in San Diego called EP Save a Life (epsavealife.org) who do amazing work and offer free heart screenings for kids 12-25. I encourage everyone to get checked because I was always the person who thought it would never be me.
This is my reason for The Heartshield Project.