Published on June 11, 2019

Surviving Cardiac Arrest Gives Womelsdorf Woman "New Outlook on Life"

Deborah Hockemeyer, age 67 of Womelsdorf, says she has "a whole new outlook on life" after the grandmother of 12 and great grandmother of six survived sudden cardiac arrest (SCA) at her home earlier this year.

SCA claims the lives of 350,000 Americans each year, but Deborah survived because she was prescribed the LifeVest wearable defibrillator.

In late 2018, Deborah went to Reading Hospital - Tower Health with apparent pneumonia. However, additional tests revealed problems with her heart, and Deborah was diagnosed with dilated cardiomyopathy. Her condition meant her heart's pumping ability was severely weakened, putting her at risk for sudden cardiac death (SCD).

Wanting to ensure Deborah was protected outside of the hospital, her cardiologist, John L. Serrian Jr., MD of Cardiology - Tower Health Medical Group prescribed the LifeVest wearable defibrillator and instructed she wear it under her clothes day and night, only taking it off for a short shower or bath. LifeVest is prescribed for a wide range of patients at risk of SCD, including those who recently suffered a heart attack or have a new diagnosis of heart failure. Deborah's daughter, Melissa, convinced her to wear it for protection and peace of mind for the family.

Just two months later, settled in the home she shared with her daughter, son-in-law and three grandchildren, Deborah's heart spiked into a rapid life-threatening rhythm, causing her to pass out without warning. Within one minute, LifeVest detected the dangerous heart rhythm and delivered a treatment shock that restored her heart's normal rhythm and saved Deborah's life. She regained consciousness immediately after the treatment to find Melissa calling 911. Deborah was transported to the hospital by ambulance, and later received an implantable defibrillator (ICD) for long-term protection.

Deborah credits Dr. Serrian and LifeVest for saving her life. "I'm grateful that I wore the LifeVest like my doctor and my daughter told me to," she said. "Had I not had it, I would not be here."

"Immediate intervention, including calling 911, performing CPR, and using a defibrillator, is critical to survival for individuals suffering from sudden cardiac arrest," said Jared Green, DO from Cardiology - Tower Health Medical Group.

Today, Deborah aspires to live a simpler life, free of stress. She's reminded every day to cherish the time she has with her family and hopes to soon make a trip to Hawaii to visit her grandson.

Unlike an ICD, the LifeVest wearable cardioverter defibrillator (WCD) is worn outside the body rather than implanted in the chest. It requires no bystander intervention. The LifeVest WCD continuously monitors the patient's heart and, if a life-threatening heart rhythm is detected, the device delivers a treatment shock to restore normal heart rhythm. The device alerts the patient prior to delivering a treatment shock, and thus allows a conscious patient to delay treatment. For more information, visit www.lifevest.zoll.com.