Denia Tacket is living proof there is life after death. She jokes about her bionic heart. She has to laugh to keep herself from crying, which is what happens when she thinks about what could have happened if a co-worker hadn’t rushed to her side to give her CPR. The crazy thing is, there is nothing wrong with her heart. Denia is a perfectly healthy, feisty, fun-loving 47-year-old administrative executive for Indianapolis tech company Baker Hill. It was a fluke that her heart stopped beating on June 7. Late that afternoon, she suddenly didn’t feel right.
“I just felt off. I felt weird,” Denia remembers.
She turned to Marsha, one of the technical writers.
“Come with me,” Denia said pointing at her, and then leading her to a wellness room.
Denia didn’t know what was happening, but her instincts told her she needed help. She laid down on a chair, but felt like the walls of the tiny room were closing in on her. Marsha helped her to a sofa in a development area. She was clammy and hot. Someone brought ice packs, someone else tried to get Denia to sip water.
“I’m going down,” she said to the co-workers who had gathered around to help. That’s the last thing Denia remembers.
Her lips turned blue. Someone called 911.
One of the developers, Steven Dennis, a new employee, rushed to her side. It had been years since he had CPR training, but an emergency dispatcher coached him through. He pounded on Denia’s chest waiting until police arrived with a defibrillator.
When she finally woke up in intensive care, she saw her husband Craig and her parents, who raced more than three hours to be by her side. She was hooked up to all kinds of monitors. And, she was so confused. Because when she woke up, she felt perfectly fine, aside from aches in her chest from the CPR.
It took a couple of days before doctors determined she had ventricular fibrillation (VFib). VFib occurs when the electrical activity in the heart’s lower chamber quiver, instead of beating normally, and that causes the heart to stop pumping blood. More than 300,000 people die every year from it. It’s the leading cause of sudden cardiac death.
The crazy thing is, VFib typically occurs in people with a heart condition. Denia’s heart was perfectly normal.
“They could find nothing wrong with my heart,” she said. “On certain days it feels weird, because I have this thing in me. Do you want to feel it?”
She points to the left side of her chest and explains she now has a defibrillator inserted. It’s her security just in case her heart stops beating again or races and needs to be slowed down. She tries not to think about it, but she knows it’s there. She knows there’s a wire that runs under her breast, and that if her heart stops, it will shock it to start pumping again.
She jokes about walking through security at a Colts game, carrying her medical card. She jokes with her two kids about the day their mom died for a few seconds and came back to life. Laughter is how she got through the ordeal. Laughter and a co-worker who knew CPR. Because of Denia, now nearly half nearly all 100 of their employees are trained in CPR, and they know what to do if someone’s heart stops beating.
“I do believe in God, and I feel like I was given a second chance,” she said.