Heart massage in the first aid course (symbolic image)

Photo: Justin Sullivan/ Getty Images

Andy Hoang from the US state of New Hampshire wanted to specialize in her job as a nurse – heart disease. That's why she was thrilled when she heard about a training course in November. The topic was cardiac arrest and how medical staff deal with it.

But as the event progressed at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center, Hoang began to feel increasingly unwell. She felt nauseous and dizzy, she had to sit down. "That's the last thing I remember," she told the Associated Press after the incident, which caused a stir among the participants.

What had happened? Hoang had suffered a cardiac arrest himself. So instead of practising chest compressions on a model, her colleagues took action in a very real way.

"She didn't have a pulse"

"One examined her carotid artery, another her femoral arteries, she didn't have a pulse," said course instructor Lisa Davenport. So they would have started resuscitation and called for help. Fortunately, the emergency team was also in a training course not far away and was able to intervene immediately.

About 15 minutes after the cardiac arrest, Hoang was taken to the emergency room. "It worked, but it was pretty scary for all of us," Davenport said. "You don't expect that from someone as young as Andy."

"Twelve to 13 hours a day at work on my feet"

In the meantime, Hoang has recovered and is able to work again. Your heart activity is permanently recorded. "I'd say I'm a pretty averagely healthy 23-year-old," she told the Associated Press. Four times a week she goes to a fitness center, she runs and eats well. "I'm on my feet at work for 13 to <> hours a day, so I want to make sure I'm fit for it."

Hoang said she lost consciousness twice the day before the cardiac arrest. The first time, she attributed this to the fact that she hadn't eaten anything and her blood sugar must have been low. The second time, she had a sharp pain in her abdomen.

The young woman grew up in Vietnam and, according to her own statements, came to the USA as a student in 2016. There is no heart disease in her family, she said.

In the United States, cardiac arrest causes 436,000 deaths each year, according to the American Heart Association. A person may experience a standstill after a heart attack. However, there are also other causes that can lead to this - such as heart muscle diseases or cardiac arrhythmias. As a rule, the risk of cardiac arrest increases with age, but it is a rather rare phenomenon in patients under 30.

She now has a deep friendship with her colleagues, says Hoang. They "went through this life-or-die experience" together, she says, and she no longer feels like an employee at work, but like a family.

The experience changed her. "Life is precious. And I didn't realize how precious it was until I almost lost it."