Surviving Sudden Cardiac Death

Hannah Cline's picture
By Hannah Cline on January 26, 2016

According to the American Heart Association, approximately 95 percent of sudden cardiac death victims die before reaching the hospital. That accounts for around 900 deaths in the U.S. every day.

Such staggering statistics are what make Markee Scott’s survival story so powerful.

Scott, a 30-year-old father of three living in Roanoke, Va., was a regular at Green Ridge Recreational Center in Roanoke County, meeting friends every week for an afternoon of pick-up basketball. Last November, one of their games was cut short when Scott collapsed on the court.

Physicians later diagnosed Scott with sudden cardiac death (SCD), which occurs when the heart suddenly stops beating as a result of a problem with its electrical system, halting blood flow to the brain and the rest of the body.

On the court, his friends thought he was just joking, but after several seconds of confusion, it became clear that something was wrong. They called for help and turned him onto his back to check for a pulse.

Green Ridge staffer Jamie Green rushed to the scene and realized that Scott wasn’t breathing and she was unable to find a pulse. Fortunately, her training at Green Ridge and Jefferson College of Health Sciences kicked in.  

“I called for help, and then I did [CPR] all the way until rescue got there,” said Green.

Green administered textbook CPR, continuing uninterrupted chest compressions and using an AED automatic defibrillator to deliver an electrical shock in an effort to restore a normal heartbeat.

Minutes later, emergency responders from Roanoke County Hollins Station 5 arrived on the scene, continued CPR, administered an additional shock and rushed Scott to Carilion Roanoke Memorial Hospital (CRMH).

Jack Perkins, M.D., Scott’s physician, explained just how important the quick actions of Green and the EMS responders were in determining whether Scott lived or died.   

“With sudden cardiac death, the outcome is typically determined before the patient gets to the emergency department,” said Dr. Perkins. “The more you delay CPR and the more you delay getting an AED to a patient, the less likely that person is to not only survive, but survive neurologically intact.”

According to the American Heart Association, if CPR or defibrillation are not administered, brain death starts to occur just four to six minutes after someone experiences SCD. If effective bystander CPR is given immediately after SCD, however, it can double a victim’s chance of survival.

“It’s really important for the public to understand that they can make a difference in someone's outcome,” continued Dr. Perkins. “The more people who know CPR, the more likely a sudden cardiac death victim is to survive.”

Since collapsing on the court, Scott has recovered and hopes to teach his son basketball. Thankful for the help from Green and all of the first responders, he agrees that the experience has shown him just how important it is to make the most of each day.

“[You] can’t take life for granted,” he said. “Here one day, gone the next.”

Learn more about CPR and connect with Carilion Clinic Direct at 800-422-8482 or direct@carilionclinic.org to register for CPR training.