Katie John died on May 14, 2012
On Wednesday, she hugged the doctors and paramedics who brought her back to life.
The Carolina Forest resident and her husband, Brett John, came carrying heart-shaped cookies and brownies for the staff at Grand Strand Regional Medical Center as a sign of appreciation for their care.
Katie John collapsed in her kitchen one year ago from cardiac arrest. For an estimated six to eight minutes, she was clinically dead, with no oxygen getting to her brain.
Miraculously, paramedics got her heartbeat to return while performing CPR. At the hospital, doctors brought her back to health without any lingering complications.
There is no brain damage and Katie John is still functioning normally. All she has from the ordeal are a small scar below her shoulder blade where a pacemaker was implanted, and two weeks of missing memories
“Those are probably two weeks you don’t want back anyway,” said Dr. Billy Jackson, a cardiologist at Grand Strand Regional who treated Katie John.
Jackson said she has a heart condition known as Long QT Syndrome, which makes a person predisposed to cardiac death.
Physicians recognized this condition while Katie John was in the hospital. They’re amazed at the virtually full recovery she’s made.
“Very rare, particularly to be able to perform as a mom,” Jackson said.
For the doctors and paramedics, having the opportunity to be thanked by someone whose life they saved and get an update on how they’re doing is also rare.
“It gives you chills,” said Derrick Nunziante, an Horry County firefighter stationed in Carolina Forest who responded to the Johns’ house that day.
Jackson asked the Johns on Wednesday if their two children were tested for Long QT. The parents told him they had, and both are negative.
They also told the crowd they’re hoping to adopt a child by the end of the year.
All smiled when Katie John passed around a photo album. Inside were pictures taken over the last year, a year she said she owes to those doctors and EMTs.
Brett John became uneasy after a few minutes inside a hospital room, where staff showed his wife all the machines she was hooked up to.
Katie wasn’t affected as her husband was; she doesn’t remember her stay.
The story she’s composed about that day is based on what family and her heart doctor told her.
“Because, obviously, I wasn’t present,” Katie John said.
What she knows is she collapsed on Monday, May 14, 2012, just one day after Mothers’ Day. Her husband found her unconscious in the kitchen, called 911 and started CPR.
Russell Smith, an Horry County Fire Rescue lieutenant, arrived and took over CPR. He shocked her with a defibrillator and some of her color started coming back.
Doctors at Grand Strand opted to put her into a medically induced coma to help her body recover, she said. Therapeutic hypothermia treatment was also administered, which lowered her body temperature to 92 degrees.
She awoke with no brain damage, and was discharged from the hospital on May 19.
With her short-term memory loss, she’d ask her family what happened to her. It became a joke because, about 30 seconds later, she’d ask the same question.
And what about visions on the so-called “other side,” of a bright light or any other spiritual entity?
Katie said she saw nothing. Her father, she added, explained to her that even if she did have a Heavenly encounter, all the drugs pumped into her system would have made her forget.
“You mean to tell me those doctors prevented me from seeing God?” she recalled saying, with a laugh.