By AMERICAN HEART ASSOCIATION NEWS
Danielle Gregoire was 13 when she almost lost her dad after his heart stopped beating for two minutes on the floor of a local Dallas area YMCA. John Gregoire, then 44 and by all appearances in good health, was lifting free weights when he dropped to the ground and everything went dark.
Luckily, a heart surgeon was jogging on the track above and saw what happened.
“He ran down and started doing CPR and chest compressions immediately but saw that it wasn’t working and asked for the defibrillator,” Danielle said of the automated external defibrillator, or AED, the doctor used twice to shock John’s heart back to life. “Obviously, he was so lucky to be somewhere where they had a defibrillator on hand, and he was revived.”
But her dad wasn’t out of the woods after his sudden cardiac arrest. He had 99.9 percent blockage in the so-called widowmaker artery and 50 percent blockage in another. The next day, doctors inserted two stents to keep the arteries open and restore blood flow.
Gregoire feels incredibly lucky her dad did not suffer any brain damage and has been able to be in her life for the nearly 15 years since that day — June 23, 2002. Now, she’s helping to raise money for the American Heart Association as part of the Life is Why We Give campaign.
“My dad is my why,” the 28-year-old merchandise planner for Kendra Scott said in a video the company is using to spread awareness and raise funds for heart disease research and education.
Mother of three boys and jewelry designer Kendra Scott said it is most important that she, too, be around for her children, noting that heart disease is the No. 1 killer in women.
“It does not discriminate. You can be young; you can be old. It doesn’t matter,” she stated. “Please, the best thing we can do is to stay healthy, be fit and go get a heart exam every single year. I promised my children I would do that, and I ask you to do the same.”
In giving back to the AHA, Kendra Scott donated part of sales during American Heart Month in February. Company representatives also participated in philanthropic luncheons and AHA-related events across the country.
Danielle said she had a heart scan and will continue to be checked to make sure everything is OK. Doctors found a leaky heart valve in one of her brothers and are monitoring it.
“My situation would have been identified through a heart scan,” said John, 59, who has spent over a decade educating people about sudden cardiac arrest and the need for AEDs.
“A lot of people have heart attacks and survive, but no one survives sudden cardiac arrest without a defibrillator,” said Gregoire, who now takes cholesterol-lowering statins for his heart.
In fact, the former software executive was so determined to spread the word about heart health after his event that he used the family’s Christmas letter to ask his friends to get a heart scan. Doctors ended up taking one of his buddies to heart surgery immediately after his scan because he was at such huge risk.
“To be able to save a life like that in a family is amazing,” Danielle said.