Fishers resident, Ruthann Graham, is one of seven women selected to participate in the American Heart Association’s 12-week Go Red BetterU Challenge. As one of the faces of this year’s challenge, she hopes to inspire others by sharing her personal account of sudden cardiac arrest.
On April 1, 2005, the healthy 52-year-old Graham went to work as usual. As the day progressed, she began to feel nauseous. She told the receptionist at her office that she was ill. Moments later, she was unconscious. The receptionist at Graham’s office called 911, but told the dispatcher that Graham had fainted. When the paramedics arrived, Graham had been unconscious for 45 minutes, with no pulse or heartbeat – she was clinically dead.
At the hospital, doctors wrapped Graham in therapeutic hypothermia blankets to reduce her core temperature and placed her in an induced coma for four days. Her doctors prepared her husband and family for the probability that she would be in a vegetative state.
“When I woke up, I didn’t know anyone, not even my husband,” Graham said.
Remarkably, Graham regained her memory and has no lasting physical or mental disabilities.
After she stabilized, her doctor implanted a pacemaker. She left the hospital 12 days later, feeling panicked about what might happen if the pacemaker failed to work. She spent six weeks in both physical and occupational therapy to help regain muscle tone, but gaining confidence in her pacemaker took more than a year. Due to her fears about the limitations of her pacemaker, Graham avoided exercising, which resulted in a 50-pound weight gain.
Her best friend, Anne Ward, knew that Graham was struggling to regain control of her health. After seeing a news segment about how to become a participant in the BetterU Challenge, she immediately called Graham and urged her to submit an essay about her experience with sudden cardiac arrest.
“I was thrilled to be chosen, because I needed the chance to change my lifestyle with the support of the other challengers and the tools that the program provides,” said Graham.
In addition to the invaluable tools that the online program provides to all women who register, as a featured challenger, Graham received additional health opportunities. She met with a weight management counselor and dietician from St. Vincent Health and received a three-month membership to the Y in Fishers to work with a personal trainer on a fitness regimen.
Graham learned a great deal about nutrition from her weight management counselor and feels better about making educated choices about food. “I don’t count calories, I now focus on limiting sugars,” said Graham. “I’m unlearning bad behaviors and relearning good ones!”
On Feb. 17, Graham along with the other BetterU challengers attended the annual Go Red For Women Luncheon and participated in the fashion show.