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Go Red For Women: Niagara Falls woman shares her heart-stopping surgery story

"I was dead for eight minutes"
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Posted at 4:51 PM, Feb 07, 2023

AMHERST, NY (WKBW) — Hours after the story of Kim Pegula's cardiac arrest was circulating, the American Heart Association was hosting its annual Go Red for Women luncheon in at the Reikart House in Amherst.

That is where Annette Adamczak was teaching hands-only CPR to a group of Buffalo school students, invited guests to the event.

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Annette Adamczak teaching hands-only CPR to Buffalo students.

“So as you push down — you're pushing the blood throughout the body,” instructed Adamczak. 

Heart disease remains the number one killer of women.

Adamczak reacted to learning about how Pegula’s daughter saved her life by performing CPR. 

“It brought tears to my eyes knowing that someone knew CPR and made a difference in a loved one's life,” Adamczak replied.

Adamczak started teaching CPR after losing her 14-year-old daughter Emily Rose to sudden cardiac arrest in 2009 during a soccer game in Akron.  She says it is her "goal and mission" to train others.    

As area women were gathering for the Go Red event, Pegula's story is yet another example of the 350,000 out-of-hospital cardiac arrests that happen each year, with about 70 percent occurring at home. 

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Kristy Smorol, communications director, American Heart Association.

“Just like what happened to Kim Pegula — it's often a family member that's going to be the one doing CPR. So if you are called on to do CPR, you are most likely going to be saving the life of someone you love,” Kristy Smorol, communications director, American Heart Association. 

Smorol noted that after Buffalo Bills Damar Hamlin suffered cardiac arrest in December on the football field the organization received a flood of response to learning CPR throughout the community.

“We had a 620% jump in traffic to our CPR website after Damar Hamlin’s collapse. We have been getting so many calls from businesses, community organizations, everyone that wants to set up hands-only CPR demonstrations, which is wonderful that we are reaching the community we are teaching more potential lifesavers,” declared Smorol. 

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Fatima Matthews of Niagara Falls shared her story as a congestive heart survivor.

Fatima Matthews of Niagara Falls shared her story as a congestive heart survivor.

After giving birth at the age of 30, she was diagnosed with postpartum cardiomyopathy.  Doctors inserted an internal defibrillator in her heart. 

It worked for about ten years, but then the batteries needed to be changed. 

“I went for surgery to have the batteries changed and unfortunately, I died on the operating table and I was dead for eight minutes. Thanks to God and medicine they brought me back to life,” recalled Matthews. “I say doctors and God — they have brought me a mighty long way.”

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Student learning hands-only CPR.

When sudden cardiac arrest occurs, CPR timing is critical in saving a life and avoiding brain damage to the victim.

“Some memory loss, but thank goodness to God mostly everything is still intact. I have short-term memory loss though,” explained Matthews. 

Matthews underwent extensive rehab where she had to learn to walk and talk all over again. She tells me Pegula's situation sounds similar to hers.

“It is a long road to recovery, so I'm praying for her and her family because it is —  it is trying times,” reflected Matthews. 

Matthews says as a survivor of her own illness, her best advice to Kim Pegula is to take it slow, keep pushing, and striving

“Try to take care of yourself first,” remarked Matthews.