Meet Cindy… an incredible woman with a truly miraculous story.
She is so sweet, beautiful and kind and I am so glad I got to spend some time with her in my studio! I think I immediately loved her because she reminds me a lot of my mom too! They both have miracle stories, and are total blessings to everyone they come across. I also just found out I know her daughter, Lindsay! We worked at outback together in Bozeman and I adore her! She messaged me after I did her moms shoot and I finally made the connection… such a small world! I asked Lindsay if she would share her side of the story too… it’s a tear jerker you guys so get ready. Don’t worry… it has a happy ending. Word of advice… GET CPR CERTIFIED.
- Before personally going through something related to heart health, did you know much about it?
I was aware of heart health, to an extent. The only way to save a life in the event of sudden cardiac arrest is CPR, and even that is incredibly difficult for the individual that needs to abandon emotion and focus solely on the mechanics required to save that life.
- Have you ever lost anyone due to a heart related health issue?
Yes. My mom died at the age of 55 from sudden cardiac arrest. She was alone at home and was not as fortunate as me to have someone nearby to take action. My mom was everything to me. She had three children and seven grandchildren. She was taken too soon and it was devastating.
- If you answered yes to the previous question and you’re comfortable answering- what happened? And to whom?
In addition to my experience with my mother, about eight years ago, on a family trip to celebrate both my 50th Birthday and my 30th Wedding Anniversary, I was involved in a snorkeling accident where I was swept away from the boat by a riptide and drowned. My heart stopped and I was no longer breathing when they finally pulled me into the boat. My son-in-law and a dear friend, both being doctors, began to perform CPR on me while we made the thirty-minute trip back to shore. Following a frantic day of Jamaican Hospitals, being air-lifted back to the United States, and a few weeks of recovery in Florida, I was finally able to return home and eventually received a bill of good health in regard to my heart.
Her daughter Lindsay’s story of that day:
Nine of us traveled to Jamaica to celebrate birthdays, anniversaries, graduations, friends, and family. That celebration quickly turned into the worst experience of my life. The first full day we were there, we decided to sign up for one of the resort’s snorkeling excursions. My mom and I both had a slice of pizza on the beach before gathering on the boat. When we arrived at the snorkeling spot, I was surprised by how rough the waters were but didn’t really think much of it beyond that. They had life-jackets on the floor of the boat in case anyone wanted one. I’m not a terribly strong swimmer so I opted to put one on. The guy told us we’d be out for about 20 minutes. My brother-in-law, Matt, and I stuck pretty close together. At this point, the water was so rough it was becoming hard to swim because the waves were forcing water into my snorkel. After about five minutes, I looked up and saw that the guy was directing people to get back on the boat. After we all got back on, I looked around and said out loud, “where’s mom?” In a split second, fun turned to panic as we all surveyed the waters for her. About 100 yards away, I could see my mom’s arm waving. Even then, none of us suspected anything catastrophic because we assumed she was wearing a life-jacket and just got pushed out trying to swim against the current. The boat sped over to her and I shrieked when I saw that her head was dropping face-first into the water. One of the guys on the boat jumped in and pulled her to the boat. I will never forget the swimsuit she was wearing. A turquoise tankini. Her skin was as blue as her swimsuit. Neither of the guys on the boat knew CPR. We were fortunate in that of the nine of us on the trip, four are doctors. They quickly sprung to action. This next part is hard to put into words. It was like a fight or flight reaction. I wanted so badly to reject what was occurring in front of me that I felt the greatest feeling I’ve ever had of wanting to run as fast and far away from the situation as possible. If I wasn’t there, maybe my mind could convince me it wasn’t real. I was running and jumping from one end of the boat to the other, screaming and crying hysterically. My dad is the coolest, calmest, most collected human I’ve ever met. Nothing rattles this guy. He was standing back, holding up my mom’s cold, blue feet to get blood to her heart. The look on his face still haunts me. It was one of total helplessness. In that moment, the reality of everything started to hit me and I suddenly envisioned flying home with my mom in a casket. The two-way radio on the boat didn’t work and the trip back to shore felt like an eternity. At this point, my mom was still not breathing on her own. They took her to the nurse station at the resort, which was about the size of a closet, and continued CPR. It was here that they were able to stabilize enough that she began breathing on her own. Unfortunately, she was still unconscious. We continued to fear for her brain function. My dad flew into the hotel room to retrieve their travel documents and they were off in a passenger van to the nearest hospital – which felt like it was about 6 hours away. The rest of us followed behind in another van. Only one person could be in the room at a time. The hospital had rats and was guarded by security carrying rifles. My dad frantically tried to get ahold of our travel agent to figure out how to get my mom back to the states. She stayed at this hospital until she re-gained consciousness. We all breathed a collective sigh of relief when we learned that she had 100% brain function. Oddly, it all still felt too scary to think the best out come was possible. We had her moved to yet another hospital – which was not much better – and could only wait for her air-flight to arrive. I had been wearing the same swimsuit for roughly 36 hours. To this day, when I feel the tug of the halter swimsuit strap behind my neck, I think of Jamaica. As we waited outside the hospital (again, one person in at a time), we watched three people in red, white, and blue jumpsuits with the American flag embroidered on the arm walk in with a gurney. The flew right past everyone and were NOT going to stand for any “one person” rule. It was a moment movies are made of. They were these amazing American angels sweeping in to rescue my mom. As they rolled her out past all of us, we were finally in a position to cry tears of joy, not fear. She spent several weeks in Florida recovering from cracked ribs and pneumonia. Against all odds, my mom survived. She is the miracle we give thanks for every day.
- Why do you want to be a part of this project?
It is a great honor to be a part of this strong and courageous group of women and to bring awareness to how important it is to always be aware of symptoms and environmental circumstances that can have an immediate and devastating impact on a woman’s heart health. And to be prepared to deal with those emergencies when they present themselves. Learn CPR!
- How have you been affected by Heart Health?
Thankfully the physical condition of my heart was not severely impacted due to the swift thinking and action of my friends and family to immediately begin CPR and address the emergency situation. However, the emotional trauma of the event will stay with me and those that were with me on the boat that day, for the rest of our lives.
- What do you want people to know?
Always monitor and acknowledge the signs of heart disease and know CPR techniques.
- How has this all changed your life?
This event in my life made me aware of how quickly things can change. It is important to always be on your guard and prepared for anything. But most importantly, embrace the things that are paramount in your life. Cherish family and friends and live life to its fullest. It was this event that led to our decisions regarding my retirement from work and the beginning of our transition to life in Denver where we can be closer to our girls and our grandchildren.
- What’s the most important thing in the world to you?
My husband, my wonderful daughters and son-in-law, my adorable grandchildren and all of the extended family and friends in my life.
If this was your last week on earth, how would you live it? Traveling with my family and yes, maybe even snorkeling 😉
- If this was your last week on earth, how would you live it?
Traveling with my family, maybe even snorkeling.
- What are you passionate about?
Family, friends, traveling, cooking, gardening, reading, being a good wife, mom and grammy.
- What do you love about yourself?
I put my family above everything else and I pride myself in having created an extraordinary life.
- What is the nicest thing anyone has ever done for you?
Believed in me.
- Last note: Be sure to embrace life and live in the moment. We cannot return to the past and we aren’t able to see what the future has in store for us. We only have now!
Cindy, thank you. And you too, Lindsay. Wow… this is such an insane story and I cannot imagine being on the boat and witnessing that. Thank God you had some amazing, skilled people on that boat who saved your life. You are a miracle and I am so glad you are here to share your story.
People… go get certified for CPR like NOW. You never know when you’ll need it.