Save Date: Februrary 11, 2009
"Ironically, I remember feeling the best I had in a long time on the morning of that fateful day," notes 41 year-old wife and mother of two, Dawn Botwen-Hauver, of Hollywood, Florida. On February 11, 2009, Dawn received a phone call from her son's school, alerting her that her five-year-old son wasn't feeling well. Little did she know how his illness would end up saving her life that very same day.
After taking her son home and calling the family doctor, Dawn was instructed to take him immediately to the hospital. Weakened by his illness, her son was unable to walk from the house to the car and into the hospital, so Dawn carried him. "As I approached the ER desk at Joe DiMaggio Children's Hospital, I told the receptionist that I felt like I was going to faint." Dawn then collapsed and went into sudden cardiac arrest. A nearby paramedic caught her son as her body fell to the floor.
Her husband arrived to find that his son was no longer the issue, and was immediately escorted to the adult ER where CPR was being administered on Dawn. "At first, he couldn't see my face and thought he must have walked into the wrong room. And since I have a history of passing out, he definitely wasn't expecting to see me in such grave condition."
Dawn was initially treated for what was thought to be a seizure but later diagnosed as ventricular fibrillation and Prolonged QT Syndrome coupled with premature ventricular contractions (PVCs). After her condition stabilized, a cardiac catheterization was performed which showed that none of her arteries were blocked. She was then placed in a hypothermic coma for 24 hours to reduce swelling in her brain and prevent any potential brain damage from taking place.
"On the day I was to be taken out of the coma - someone working on my case told my husband there could be many outcomes: from brain damage to death to not being able to breathe on my own." After an unsuccessful attempt at removing her breathing tube, doctors placed Dawn back in the coma. She was eventually able to be taken of machines and begin the 13-hour long "defrosting" process. To the relief of her entire family, she awoke, was able to speak and had no signs of brain damage.
Yet her journey to recovery was not complete. She immersed herself in educational materials, finding out as much as she could about Prolonged QT Syndrome (LQTS). She was implanted with an ICD.
Two weeks later she was back in the hospital only to learn that the ICD needed adjusted, after going into ventricular fibrillation, passing out again and being shocked twice. Back in the hospital, this time Dawn was without a crucial part of her support system. "My husband was on the tarmac at Miami International Airport, and officials would not let him off the plane. So, he had to fly to New York and take the early morning flight back home the next day."
Two weeks after the ICD adjustments were made, Dawn was back on the road to feeling well, yet her journey remained unfinished. She soon learned that LQTS is either genetic or acquired, and since she had children, she needed to identify if the deadly condition could be passed on.
Unlike most victims of SCA, Dawn had experienced cardiovascular problems in the past. In addition to her frequent fainting spells, about a year and a half earlier she was diagnosed with arrhythmia. She was placed on beta blockers and has since been under the care of a cardiology specialist and electrophysiologist.
"I was referred to as a 'miracle' by one of the hospital administrators, and I have my five year old to thank. Had this not happened at the hospital, I would not be here today." Her family is currently undergoing genetic testing for LQTS.
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