Woman celebrates with rescuers 15 years after her heart stopped beating

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TRAVIS COUNTY (KXAN) — A family celebrates a life they almost lost 15 years ago with the neighbors and first responders who came to the rescue.

It was April 27, 2004. Christi Hesson headed out for a walk in her Senna Hills neighborhood. Her dog was with her and she was going to meet a friend. That’s where her memories of that day fade to black.

“I came around the corner; I found Christi laying on the ground with her dog standing over her,” recalls Debbie Jackman, a neighbor at the time. She rushed over to Hesson and called 911. In the meantime, another neighbor, Tom Kenney ran to get his wife, who’s a nurse, to perform CPR. The minutes ticked by. Doctors think Hesson was without a heartbeat for eight to 10 minutes. Luckily, medics just so happened to be in the area and arrived quickly.

“It all came together really well and we rode into the hospital with her and then we’re proud to have her survive,” says Ken Campbell, assistant fire chief at Ce-Bar Fire Department. Waiting for that news was agony for Jackman. “That happened like on a Monday and on Saturday morning her husband called me and said, ‘Thank you for saving my wife.'”

Hesson was treated at St. David’s South Austin Medical Center. Doctors tried therapeutic hypothermia protocol. Hesson says the treatment hadn’t been used successfully at the hospital up until that point.

“They put me in a coma, lowered my body temperature and then slowly raised it and then they just waited to see,” Hesson said. Against the odds, Hesson not only survived, she did so without suffering any neurological complications. A battery of tests yielded few answers as to what caused her heart to stop. Doctors implanted a defibrillator anyway. Hesson thought her cardiac arrest was a fluke, but the defibrillator has likely saved her life twice since then.

“She would have missed a couple high school graduations, a couple college graduations, one post-grad degree, two weddings and four fluffy puppy adoptions,” says Hesson’s daughter Sara.

To celebrate the 15-year milestone, Sara and her brother Shane hosted a get-together for friends and family. Christi is quick to point out that she’s not the guest of honor, though. “It’s not about me. It’s about the various agencies and I think it’s awesome that they’re being honored.”

Several of the first responders on the scene that day are still with the Ce-Bar Fire Department, including Chief Buddy Crain. “It’s wonderful. This statistically it is such an improbable event and she is such a sweet lady and her family is just great, so this–it’s an honor.”

The Hesson family is raising money for the American Heart Association. They want donations to go toward providing a local school with a CPR in Schools training kit. They hope to collect enough money to pay for two kits. CPR and AED training is required for middle and high school students in Texas.

Matt Nader, former Westlake High School football star and UT recruit helped push for the requirements at the State Capitol in 2013; about seven years after he suffered sudden cardiac arrest on the sidelines during a football game. Nader happens to be a close family friend of the Hessons and was there to help them celebrate the occasion. It’s a cause he’s still committed to all these years later.

“Every year I still get e-mails from schools or districts, superintendents saying, ‘Hey, Senate Bill 7 saved a kid’s life or saved a staff member’s life,’ so that’s definitely rewarding,” said Nader.

You can donate to the Hesson family’s fundraiser here.
 

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