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Meredith Parker

A new routine had only just begun for a Cleveland, Tenn. couple, Jonathan and Meredith Parker. Both were settling into parenthood after Meredith gave birth to their first child, Olivia, by cesarean section on June 24, 2008. But minutes before the stroke of midnight on July 2, the perfect family scene unexpectedly changed.

Like all new babies, Olivia began to cry in the middle of the night, and Jonathan walked over to check on her. As Meredith followed her husband, she suddenly felt her heart racing. Within seconds, Meredith collapsed. Jonathan could see she was having trouble breathing.

Without any hesitation, Jonathan began CPR. It was Jonathan’s recent training with the police academy that kept Meredith’s blood and oxygen pumping through her body. He continued to perform chest compressions until the paramedics arrived. After shocking Meredith nine times to obtain a stable heart rhythm, the paramedics transported the young mother to the nearest hospital.

Doctors at the hospital decided Meredith needed immediate cardiac care, and she was airlifted by LIFE FORCE to the Erlanger Baroness Campus. "When Meredith arrived at Erlanger, we took her directly to the Cardiac Catheterization Lab," explained James Hoback, M.D., a board-certified cardiologist with the Chattanooga Heart Institute.

The diagnosis was both swift and grim. Meredith had suffered a massive heart attack caused by a tear in a main artery. "It is a rare event when a tear in the artery occurs during pregnancy," explained Dr. Hoback. "In Meredith’s case, a blood clot had formed on top of the tear, which blocked the flow of the blood."

In the Cardiac Cath Lab, Dr. Hoback performed an arteriogram, repairing the tear and inserting a stent to open up the blocked artery. While Meredith recovered, the cardiac staff also used a cooling blanket to induce hypothermia and reduce her body temperature to 92 degrees. Studies show that the use of cooling blankets to induce hypothermia in cardiac patients slows brain activity and therefore reduces the risk of brain damage.

By Friday afternoon, Meredith began to display some promising signs of recovery.

"When she woke up, her brain function was perfectly normal," added Dr. Hoback. "We don’t know if her brain would have recovered without the cooling process, which has become standard for heart attack patients in the last few years. She’s very lucky. We are very lucky, too."

Meredith, age 29 at the time of her heart attack, also had a few other favorable factors on her side. Her youthfulness and being a nonsmoker may have played important roles in increasing her chances of survival and helping her make a quick recovery.

"It’s a huge miracle," said Meredith. "I want to encourage others that nothing is impossible. We know without a shadow of doubt that the Lord helped us. I am blessed and thankful to the Lord to be here and see my baby grow. The paramedics, doctors and nurses were all strategically placed, and all did a great job. We were floored by the quality of care. The staff went above and beyond what they had to do."