In November of 2021, six weeks after hiking Mount Whitney – the highest mountain in the contiguous United States – David fainted while taking his dog, Honey, for a nighttime walk.
“My entire life, I was very active,” says David, who played baseball in college and continued to do so on Sundays after graduation, while also participating in triathlons and remaining competitive whenever and wherever possible. When he collapsed while walking his dog, he was 37 years old and was in “the best shape of [his] life.”
After fainting, he stayed in the hospital for a few days where he was diagnosed with AV-block type 2 and pericarditis. He received a pacemaker and was sent on his way. “I wasn’t given any instructions in terms of medication or lifestyle changes,” he says. “I walked out of the hospital three days after fainting and went right back to my normal lifestyle.”
Six months after his initial event, in May of 2022, David was playing Sunday baseball when he had a Sudden Cardiac Arrest (SCA). “The guys on my team, though they didn’t know textbook CPR, pushed hard and fast in the center of my chest – and looking back at it now, that effort most likely saved my brain function,” he says.
Meanwhile, his teammate Stan ran to a nearby soccer field calling for help. Someone in the parking lot happened to be a CPR-certified doctor, who drove over to David and performed CPR while also taking total control of the situation, directing the team on how to help. The paramedics arrived and shocked David with an AED five times before he regained a pulse. David was in a coma for three days in the hospital; the baseball game was on Sunday, and he woke up on Thursday.
“The reason I was given for my SCA at the time was that I had a viral infection that had caused me to develop Dilated Cardiomyopathy (DCM),” he says. “During my follow-ups with my cardiologist, I wasn’t satisfied with the time I was given to ask questions. As a new patient, I had a lot of them, including about exercise. After the third visit, I decided to get a second opinion.”
His new doctor did an EKG and immediately spotted an abnormality. After an ECHO and MRI, David was diagnosed with ARVC (arrhythmogenic right ventricular cardiomyopathy) – a condition he was born with, which had finally progressed enough to start showing symptoms.
“One of the hardest parts was that I’d just been given clearance to exercise again, only to learn that I needed to ramp back down,” he says. “It’s hard to accept that the kind of exercise I’ve been doing for the first half of my life will be radically different from the type of movement I’ll be doing for the second half. But I look forward to finding new hobbies and opportunities to spread awareness of ARVC and the importance of bystander CPR.”
The fact that David was saved by a stranger has made a huge impact on his life. “Once I woke up, I had this overwhelming feeling of wanting to give back and pay it forward to someone else,” he says. He was CPR certified right after his SCA, and then got his instructor certification. He teaches CPR certification classes on the weekend – so others have the skills they need to save a life.
David and “the stranger” who saved his life met on the one-year anniversary of David’s SCA to have lunch. “We’ll be connected forever now,” says David. “I’m just so grateful to him.”