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Down But Not Out

August’s Luckiest Hoosier Alive: Erika Mulroney

Writer / Christy Heitger-Ewing

Erika Mulroney had just finished facilitating a class at her church on the evening of June 2, 2016, when she turned down a back hallway of the church, blacked out, and collapsed, face-first, on the floor. Because of the layout of the building, her body was out of the line of sight for most anyone who happened by.

Thankfully, a security guard (a person there to lock up) used the restroom near that hallway. When he saw Erika, he immediately rushed to her side, checked for a pulse and panicked. Unable to detect a heartbeat, he ran to find help.

“Come quick!” he gasped. “I think Erika may be gone!”

“What do you mean gone?” someone asked.

“I found her passed out and she’s not breathing!” he said. “I’m not sure if she’s alive.”

As it turned out, several of the members who had just taken the evening class had not yet left the building. Two of them were nurses and one was a firefighter. They, along with Erika’s husband, Kirk, raced to perform CPR and administered the AED (Automated External Defibrillator).

“They shocked me with the AED equipment once prior to the fire department arriving and again right after they got there,” says Erika, 36. “I was told that several times I flatlined and they lost me — once in the church and again in the ambulance. But both times they got me back.”

Ultimately, Erika was transferred to St. Francis Hospital for care where physicians cooled her body to 93 degrees in an effort to preserve her organs and brain for a period of time before bringing her back to normal temperature. Thankfully, Erika handled that procedure well and didn’t sustain any seizures. She was in ICU and on a respirator for 10 days. On day 17, she had an implantable cardioverter defibrillator put in, and on day 19, she was released to go home.

“The astounding thing is that I have minimal, if any, residual damage to my mind,” Erika says. “I have a few memory issues and that frustrates me because I used to be great with people’s names and phone numbers. But I can’t complain. For all intents and purposes, I’m whole and healed.”

Her family learned, through results from a blood draw, that Erika had suffered sudden cardiac arrest caused by a small microvascular clot. Beyond that, they really have no answers as to why this incident occurred. All she knows for certain is how grateful she is to be alive, to still be a wife to Kirk and a mother to their 5-year-old son, Brooks. Though he is too young to really understand what happened to his mom a year ago, whenever they drive by St. Francis, he points to the building and says, “That’s Mama’s hospital!”

With no heart disease in the family, it really does seem a fluke that Erika would suffer cardiac arrest.

Though she, herself, has no way of knowing how long she was unconscious, church surveillance tapes reveal that Mulroney was passed out for 5-7 minutes before anyone noticed her. Her friends, husband and emergency workers then proceeded to work on her for 20 minutes before being loaded in the ambulance. So, the fact that she didn’t suffer brain damage is nothing short of a miracle.

“We definitely feel like my survival was a miracle,” Erika says. “God saved my life, and I’m really glad to be here. To say that I am lucky to have survived is an understatement. The fact that I suffered very few mental and physical disabilities after the event is astonishing. I definitely think I am the luckiest Hoosier alive!”

About Christy Heitger-Ewing

Christy Heitger-Ewing is an award-winning writer and columnist who writes human interest stories for national, regional, and local magazines. She is also the author of the book “Cabin Glory: Amusing Tales of Time Spent at the Family Retreat” (www.cabinglory.com).

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