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Moments That Matter: Sudden Cardiac Arrest

January 15, 2018

On the evening of August 24, 2016, life changed instantly for the Kachur family of Pompton Lakes. Eighteen-year-old Michael Kachur was only weeks away from starting his freshman year at the Savannah College of Art and Design when he suddenly collapsed in the family room.

Out of Nowhere

“We had no idea what happened,” says Michael’s mother, Elizabeth. “One minute he was fine, and the next minute he was on the floor turning blue.” Michael’s brother, Brian, quickly hailed a next door neighbor (and retired police officer) who ran over to the Kachur house within minutes to administer CPR – a response that helped save Michael’s life.

When the ambulance arrived, it transported Michael to Chilton Medical Center, where doctors assessed the situation and acted swiftly to stabilize him. They connected him immediately to an Arctic Sun Temperature Management System to lower his body temperature and save his brain cells. Michael spent several critical hours in Chilton’s Intensive Care Unit under the care of intensivist Daniel Markley, MD, whose expertise and quick action contributed to Michael’s full recovery, according to Elizabeth.

“I couldn’t believe this was happening; he was perfectly healthy,” says Elizabeth. “We had no idea what was wrong and neither did the doctors, initially.” Several weeks later, the Kachurs finally learned the cause of Michael’s collapse.

Sudden Cardiac Arrest

This heart condition, which may be inherited in some cases, causes the abrupt and unexpected deaths of approximately 4,000 children and young adults each year in the U.S. The condition is more formally known as sudden arrhythmia death syndrome, or SADS. Ventricular arrhythmias in the heart triggering cardiac arrest are the most common cause of SADS. Approximately half of all SADS deaths occur unexpectedly and with nearly half of these victims, cardiac arrest is the very first manifestation of the disease.

“I didn’t understand the gravity of what was happening until we got him to the hospital,” Elizabeth stresses. “We thought it was a seizure, but it was so much worse. If it wasn’t for the staff at Chilton and their compassionate, effective and fast response, Michael wouldn’t be here today.”

Back to Life

The miraculous news: After successful surgery to install a device to monitor the electrical function of his heart, months of recovery and weeks of rehab, Michael recovered fully from his cardiac event and is back at school in Savannah, GA, something that makes Mom just a tad nervous, albeit eternally grateful.

“I have my moments for sure, but Michael has been cleared to live a full and active life – as if nothing happened – and that’s fantastic,” says Elizabeth, who now is involved with the SADS Foundation, helping educate others on this quiet and sudden killer. “It was against all odds that Michael survived, so we are truly lucky. I’m now helping others prepare – not necessarily to prevent the cardiac event itself, because you don’t know it’s going to happen – but for how to respond when someone suddenly collapses. It’s the very least I can do.”

Learn more about Project Heartbeat and the Cardiac Rhythm Management Program at Atlantic Health System.