There had been no pain, no warning signal. But Michelle Dean suddenly collapsed. Her heart was in cardiac arrest.
On Jan. 25, she had arrived at the Phoenix restaurant where she works as a restaurant manager. But what started as just a typical day quickly became a chain of extraordinary events.
Luckily, Michelle wasn’t alone at the restaurant. Her supervisor found her and began CPR while someone from a neighboring business called 911.
About a half-mile away, paramedics from Phoenix Fire Station 17 responded and quickly took over efforts to bring Michelle back.
Paramedics put the paddles to Michelle’s chest. Her heart began to beat again and she was rushed to the Abrazo Arizona Heart Hospital.
At the hospital, she coded again. But the emergency room staff got her heart pumping. Over the next few days, Abrazo Arizona Heart Hospital’s team revived Michelle when she coded three more times.
Intervention after intervention was done to help her hang on.
Michelle was placed into a hypothermia protocol to cool her body to protect her neurological function.
Again, the Abrazo Arizona Heart Hospital physicians and nurses saved her life. An emergency pacemaker was inserted. She later received a stent and was transferred out of ICU.
After the ordeal, Michelle reflected on what had happened. “I didn’t feel anything before and don’t have any recollection of what happened. I woke up Feb. 3 wondering where I was and what happened.”
On Feb. 14, Michelle got to meet the firefighters who saved her.
She wanted to meet the heroes who kept her heart beating, so she chose the biggest day for heart-felt wishes - Valentine's Day.
She brought along a stuffed heart pillow and asked the firefighters to sign it. Hospital staff had already written messages to Michelle on her pillow.
Michelle shared her story during a press conference that day. She said she’d never forget all they did to save her life.
“I’m blessed. I’m a miracle,’’ the Phoenix resident said. “My boys are teenagers and I can be here for them.”
And she had a message for others, “Keep yourself up to date on CPR.”
It’s a message that Robert Strumpf, Michele’s cardiologist at Abrazo Arizona Heart Hospital, emphasized during the Valentine’s Day press conference.
He added: “Get evaluated if you have symptoms. Classic signs are chest pains, shortness of breath, irregular heartbeat. Half of heart attacks have no warning.”