No one ever knows exactly what the future holds. That’s part of what makes life exciting. People plan and take precautions, but they simply can’t prepare for everything. Life can head in unexpected, and even tragic, directions. But sometimes — in what seems like a twist of fate — the right person shows up at just the right time. Just ask Katie Young.
Katie is the kind of person that other people like to be around. She’s young, healthy and creative, with a bright smile. In the fall semester of 2020, she completed her BFA in studio art at BHSU. On Nov. 21, after participating in commencement, she decided to celebrate graduation with her boyfriend and friends in Rapid City. In the mood for some lighthearted fun, the group decided to go bowling.
“I’m a very petite person,” Katie said of herself. “I’m only 4’ 11” and about 100 pounds. Usually when I’m bowling it’s with a kid’s bowling ball.” As she sorted through balls that evening, she reflected that they all felt heavier than usual, but she put it out of her mind. Then, after her first throw, she noticed that her ball felt even heavier. Katie turned back to her group and began to ask for help finding a different ball to use.
That was the last she remembered of the bowling alley. Katie doesn’t remember falling to the ground, and she has no recollection of the moment that her heart stopped beating.
Nor does she recall Amanda Gunter, RN, running over and administering aid. “My husband saw Katie go down — she just collapsed — and he yelled at me right away,” said Amanda. “Immediately I ran over to her, and just like that, intuition took over.”
Jumping Into Action
With ten years of nursing experience, Amanda quickly assessed the situation, and pieced together an idea of what was happening. Katie’s skin had turned blue, and Amanda couldn’t locate a pulse — her mind immediately turned to sudden cardiac arrest.
“I went into full nurse mode and yelled for an AED and told someone to call 911. Then I initiated chest compressions, about 30 seconds after she first went down.” Amanda continued administering chest compressions for one minute before pausing to check for a pulse. Unfortunately, no AED was available, so Amanda returned to chest compressions. Roughly one minute later, a little color had returned to Katie’s skin, her eyelids started fluttering, and she began to moan.
That’s when EMS arrived and Amanda gave them control of the scene. They re-evaluated Katie’s condition, and loaded her in an ambulance to take her to the hospital. “It all happened very fast,” Amanda recalled.
They use simple step-by-step instructions, often with audio commands, to guide the user through the process of using the device. While nothing can replace experienced medical intervention, AEDs can save lives when it comes to emergencies involving cardiac events.
While Amanda’s quick reaction saved Katie’s life, access to an AED would have been a tremendous help. These devices can quickly and easily identify potentially life-threatening cardiac events, and treat them until emergency medical personnel can take over.
A Second Chance
The next thing Katie remembers is waking up in the ambulance. “I was really confused for the first three or four hours after I woke up,” she said. “They initially thought maybe I had a seizure, but I wasn’t breathing. I didn’t have a heartbeat. They finally realized that I went into cardiac arrest, and was later diagnosed with Long QT Syndrome, which we found out was caused by the antidepressants that I was on.”
Long QT Syndrome, or LQTS, is a heart rhythm disorder that has the potential to cause seizures, fainting and sudden death. Often it goes undiagnosed, until it’s too late. It wouldn’t sound like a stretch to say that was the fate in store for Katie. Or was it?
While it can be fatal, LQTS is also treatable in most cases. It may require taking certain medications, or avoiding others. In other cases, surgery or implantable devices can help control abnormal heart rhythms. This condition is rare, but often goes undiagnosed if there are no obvious symptoms. If there is a family history of LQTS, early signs such as loss of consciousness during physical activity or emotional events, seizures or gasping for breath during sleep, it’s worth speaking to a doctor about tests to determine whether LQTS is a possible diagnosis.
Katie’s life took a sudden and unexpected turn that night. Fortunately for her, the right person was in the right place, at just the right time. Amanda’s quick reaction likely saved Katie’s life. Knowing this, one thing gives each woman pause — neither had initially intended to be there that evening. Katie turned down babysitting her niece and nephew to go out, and Amanda and her husband decided to change dinner plans so that they could spend time with their children. Had either kept their initial plans, things could have played out quite differently.
Katie’s mom, Kathy Young, is also a Monument Health caregiver, working in the outpatient wound care department in Spearfish since 2002. “People with Long QT Syndrome typically don’t survive — you hear about young healthy kids, or unexplained deaths in otherwise young healthy adults, and they generally blame it on this,” Kathy reflected. “I’m just so grateful Amanda was there. Really, it’s because of her that our daughter survived, so thank you, Amanda.”
Katie is optimistic about the future — she’s taking her artistic talents to a new medium, beginning a tattoo apprenticeship, and is looking forward to continuing to be part of her nieces’ and nephews’ lives. “They’re just kind of monitoring me right now, but it looks like everything has been pretty consistent,” she said. “I’m really grateful that I got a second chance. I still have a lot of things that I want to do in my life.”
Thanks to Amanda’s quick reaction, Katie will have that opportunity.
Registered Nurses facilitate quality, compassionate, relationship-centered care to Monument Health patients. Their skills optimize health and healing while promoting their patients’ best interests.