Life Vest Saves Hearts

PLANO, Texas. A wife, a mother, a dancer ... all this almost came to an end for Stacey Alcala.

"My chest was caving in, and my arm was going numb," Stacey Alcala told Ivanhoe.

Stacey had a heart attack. Something she never thought would happen at age 29.

"I'm very active. Eat right, best I can. Exercise a lot," Alcala said.

But all of that did not stop her artery from tearing. "The only thing that came to my head was, 'What could this do to my girls?'" Alcala recalled.

Stacey survived and was sent home from the hospital with one of these, the first wearable defibrillator. Heart attack survivors like Stacey are at a 12 percent increased risk for a sudden cardiac arrest the first three months following the attack. This life vest offers immediate protection.

"The vest has electrodes that go on the surface of the skin that both record the heart's electrical activity like an EKG," Brian DeVille, M.D., electrophysiologist at the Heart Hospital Baylor in Plano, Texas, said. "It can deliver an electrical shock, much like the paramedics would in an emergency situation."

When a patient's heart stops beating, a warning is given. If the patient does not respond, the vest takes over.

It allows patients to go home faster from the hospital, feeling safer about the distance between them and help. Alcala wore the life vest for six weeks. Soon after that, she was back to playing with her kids and dancing.

"Every moment I have with them now I try to make the best of it," Alcala said.

The life vest is used in heart attack patients whose heart muscle function has decreased 35 to 60 percent. The life vest does not prevent a heart attack but treats a cardiac arrest.

Susan Hall, Public Relations
Baylor Medial Centers
Plano, TX

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