'I should not be alive:' Woman thanks bystanders who saved her life
OTTAWA -- Lauren Carruthers hovers close to the spot on the sidewalk that she almost died.
"It's a little emotional walking this area," she says. "I'll always remember that this is where my life changed."
On September 23rd, Carruthers went out for a jog, something she did a few times a week.
"Normal day...nothing weird about it," she recalls.
She ran a route she knows well, but that day was different. A nurse by trade, she knew something wasn't right.
"I remember I was texting my friend and said 'that was really, really hard."
"I got around the corner from my house and remember thinking my chest feels a little bit fluttery. I was like I’m going to turn around and go home because I’m not feeling all that great," she says.
"Then I don’t remember anything else until waking up a few days later."
Carruthers had collapsed on the sidewalk after suffering sudden cardiac arrest. Two Molly Maid employees were driving by at the exact moment she hit the ground. They stopped and rushed to her side, before calling 911. Ambulance Communications Officer Stefanie Doucett took the first call.
"Based on what (the caller) was saying, it was indicated this woman needed CPR," says Doucett. "I walked her through the instructions on what to do."
One of the women started doing compressions. At the same time, another witness made a separate emergency call.
"They had mentioned they were outside a school and I know the public access defibrillators are in the building," recalls ACO Chantale Graham. A Canada Post employee, who also witnessed Carruthers collapse, rushed to get the machine. Graham talked the bystanders through the set-up, before they delivered a first shock to Carruthers heart as paramedics arrived on scene.
"The first thing I thought on scene is there’s a real good chance of bringing her back," says Martin Bedard, an Advanced Care Paramedic who was one of the first emergency responders to arrive.
Paramedics shocked her heart a second time, regaining a pulse. They rushed her to the Montfort Hospital, where she would spend the next two weeks.
According to the Heart & Stroke Foundation, only one in 10 people survive cardiac arrests that happen at home or in public places. Carruthers was that one.
"I shouldn't be standing here today. Statistically, I should not be alive," she says.
The last month of physical recovery has been slow. She underwent a procedure at the Ottawa Heart Institute to implant an implantable cardioverter defibrillator, known as an ICD.
"The device is there to defibrillate or shock me if I was to go into this abnormal rhythm again," she explains.
There have also been plenty of mental hurdles.
"Not only should I not be alive, but it’s amazing that I don’t have some kind of brain injury from this...that I’m back to my normal self is crazy," says Carruthers.
She has the chance to still live that life, thanks to a group of strangers that was there to save it.
"Thank you isn’t enough," she says. "I can’t express in words how incredibly, incredibly grateful I am. Thank you isn’t enough"