Facing Sudden Cardiac Death and Living to Tell About It

Tragedy was on the Stone family’s doorstep, but luckily, it never got the chance to come inside.

“I could’ve died, there’s no doubt in my mind. Thankfully, that’s not the case,” said James Stone, a 52-year-old father of three.

One day last November, Stone started feeling sick and began vomiting, but he chalked it up to a stomach bug.

“My kids had just been sick, so when I started throwing up, I thought I had caught their stomach bug. I had no idea it was something much worse,” said Stone.

Concerned about dehydration, he came to the Emergency Center at Memorial Hermann Memorial City Medical Center where he was seen by Memorial Hermann Medical Group cardiologist, Harold Condara, Jr., M.D.

“They did an EKG, and I jokingly asked, ‘I guess this isn’t a virus?’ That’s when the nurse told me I was having a heart attack,” he recalled.

Stone had a stent placed in his heart, and before he was discharged, he was seen by Memorial Hermann Medical Group cardiologist, Charles Caplan, M.D.

“Because of the damage to Mr. Stone’s heart from the heart attack, it wasn’t pushing out the amount of blood it should’ve been. I believed he was at a much higher risk for ventricular fibrillation and possibly sudden cardiac death (SCD), so I recommended he get a LifeVest,” said Dr. Caplan.

“For many patients, the stent and proper medication means they have no need for something like this. However, for those at a higher risk of SCD, the LifeVest can act as a parachute. You may not need it, but you’ll sure be glad you’re wearing it if you do,” said Dr. Caplan.

And, it’s a parachute Stone needed.

Eight days after leaving the hospital, he was sitting at home alone while his family was at church. Without warning or symptoms, James suddenly passed out. He experienced a dangerously fast heartbeat, causing his heart to quiver instead of pumping blood to the body and brain. If not treated within minutes, these dangerous heart rhythms could have caused SCD. But thankfully, Stone’s LifeVest detected the life-threatening rhythm and within 60 seconds delivered a treatment shock that restored his normal heartbeat.

Stone returned to the hospital and had a permanent defibrillator implanted by Alexander Drtil, M.D., a cardiac electrophysiologist affiliated with Memorial Hermann Heart & Vascular Institute — Memorial City.

“I can’t speak highly enough about the team at Memorial Hermann Memorial City. From the moment I walked in the door for the heart attack to my continuing cardiac rehabilitation, everyone I’ve come into contact with has been so kind and responsive,” said Stone.  “I get to wake up every day and see my wife and kids. That wouldn’t be the case without them.”

Stone said he looks forward to getting back to spending time with his family at their lake house fishing and becoming more active.

Learn more about heart disease and treatments on the Heart and Vascular Institute website.


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Tashika Varma