Life After Cardiac Arrest: Cynthia’s Second Chance at Health & Happiness

April 6, 2020

It was a normal Friday at work for Cynthia Carmichael, cashier at her hometown Wawa in Cinnaminson, N.J., when just a few hours into her shift, a hot flash and chest pains swept over her. She correctly thought she was having a heart attack, but little did she know, before the day would end, she would require resuscitation four times.

Cynthia had suffered from sudden cardiac arrest (SCA), two short days after Christmas. Her daughter, Jonnette, rushed her to Jefferson Cherry Hill Hospital, where, under the supervision of emergency physician Dr. Danielle Kusmaul and cardiologist Dr. Mitchell Rosenberg, 40 fateful minutes of CPR would commence.

Cynthia only remembers being wheeled through the doors of the Emergency Department, before waking up at a partner hospital, face-to-face with her startled, news-bearing children (after emergency intervention by Dr. Jeffrey Ogbara, The Heart House cardiologist affiliated with Jefferson Health.)

“I couldn’t believe it. I just started crying and kept saying, ‘God is good,’” said Cynthia. “My kids told me not to get worked up and assured me that the doctors and their team did an amazing job keeping me alive.”

“I’ve seen CPR administered many times, and this time was unique. The chest compressions were so efficient. Even when her heart stopped, her extremities were still moving,” explained Dr. Rosenberg.

“A huge risk for many cardiac arrest survivors is brain damage, however, Cynthia’s mental function remained intact. She is exactly who she was before this happened, except now, she’s leading a healthier life,” he continued.

Cynthia currently attends cardiac rehab three days a week, where she performs aerobic exercise. Because she is at risk for SCA, she wears an external cardioverter defibrillator, which monitors her heartrate and can deliver shock treatment, if needed. Soon, she’ll have one surgically implanted.

“I feel excellent! At rehab, they say I exceed their standards,” said Cynthia. “I’ve stopped smoking. I haven’t touched a cigarette since December 27. I’ve started eating healthier and being more active. When I wake up, I make my breakfast, do the dishes, do my laundry, do my exercises, and I make my bed. I’m ready to do more! I’m going a little stir crazy, but I know that I have to take it slow and wait until my heart is stronger.”

“I’ve never seen anyone bounce back so quickly. She, and her family, have made all the right decisions with her care. She should be able to head back to work soon,” added Dr. Rosenberg of The Heart House.   

“When I first met with Dr. Rosenberg, I started crying. I had to thank him for saving my life. If it weren’t for him, and God, I wouldn’t be here,” said Cynthia. “He’s a great doctor. He’s kind, patient, and incredibly helpful.”

Cynthia’s biggest support system has been her family, and she’s doing everything she can to make sure she’s by their side as long as she can be. She’s celebrating her 68th birthday on April 6th, and her family is deeming it her “re-birth” day.

“My eyes are wide open. I’m no longer going to put unhealthy things into my body. I’m enjoying time with my family – my grandkids and great grandkids. I’m thankful every day that I wake up. When I really think about it, I’m lucky to even be here, right now, sharing this story.”