May 30—DELRAY BEACH—It's rare that a 30-year-old woman has a heart attack—or that she returns to thank the people who rescued her.
But Jessica Cody made her way into Palm Beach County Fire Rescue Station 42 on Tuesday morning, and she didn't let her walker stop her from hugging and offering soft-spoken words of gratitude to each of the seven first responders who saved her life in April.
"I think I was dead when I came into the ambulance, right? It's kind of freaky," Cody said. "Without you, I wouldn't be here."
When paramedics responded to the April 27 call at their home west of the city limits, Jessica was unresponsive, her mother was standing panicked in their driveway and a friend was performing CPR with instructions from a 9-1-1 dispatcher.
The CPR—performed in the five to eight minutes Cody was unconscious—likely saved her life, responders said Tuesday. After paramedics stabilized her pulse, she was taken to Delray Medical Center, where she had three emergency surgeries. A month later, she is expected to make a complete recovery.
Cody's memories of the days after the attack are spotty.
"I remember the last four days of being in the hospital and losing my voice," she said. "I wanted water and couldn't write down water, it was hard. Little stuff like that."
Cody Jessica said her recovery is going well, all things considered. She wears a life vest that monitors her heart and can deliver a shock if something is wrong, and she temporarily uses a walker to get around until her strength fully returns.
A parent never expects to hear that the left side of their previously healthy 30-year-old child's heart is only functioning at 5 percent, Gladys Cody said of her daughter.
"It was awful from the very beginning," she said. "And then getting to the hospital not sure what's going to happen and then being told she needed emergency surgery or she wasn't going to make it. That was another point that was just very hard to deal with."
Lieutenant Juan Saavedra marveled at how special it was for crew members to be able to sit down with Jessica and Gladys so soon after something so traumatic.
"There's nothing more rewarding than to get the human touch and to actually see the ones that we can have a positive impact on," he said. "Not only does the outcome not always result in this, but it doesn't always happen where we get to have lunch and break bread with the people who the last time we saw you, you were a lot different."
Saavedra said he's been on the job 11 years and his unit typically responds to cardiac arrest calls from a much older population. For Jessica to only be 30, he said he thought a lot about her future and that this particular call stuck with him and the rest of the responders.
"Running on a 30-year-old female, thinking about the amount of life that she has left to live and the quality of life that she's going to have from this point forward coming out of the hospital—it touched all of us, not just myself," he said.
Dr. Kenneth Scheppke, medical director for the Fire Rescue unit, said recent changes in resuscitation training have resulted in markedly improved chances of survival in cardiac arrest situations.
In 2011, he said paramedics were only able to return six percent of pulses in Palm Beach County. That number jumped to 17 percent in 2014, but after official CPR guidance changed in 2015 to focus only on chest compressions, nearly 40 percent of cardiac arrest cases result in a pulse return.
Jessica's case also speaks to why everyone should learn CPR, Scheppke said.
"People think that the reason they learn CPR is for some nameless stranger," Scheppke said. "But most of the time if you ever have a chance to use it, it will be for a family member or a friend. You don't learn CPR for some nameless, faceless stranger. You learn it for the people around you."
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