AKRON, Ohio - Christi Nelson says she believes she holds the record for the most time spent without a pulse, then attaining a near-complete recovery.
"I went 62 minutes without a heartbeat and I had 13 shocks with an AED," said Nelson, referring to an automated external defibrillator, which she credits with saving her life.
Nelson remembers little of the incident and initial recovery, but clearly recalls the presence of her deceased great grandfather and grandmother in a peaceful, comforting setting.
"I remember being with them. I was laying in my grandma's lap, and my great grandfather was here on my left side next to me, and they were just comforting me, like rubbing my arms, tickling me, things that comfort me when I'm not feeling good... telling me that I was OK, that they were with me," she said.
Nelson technically died on Oct. 18, 2006 when she collapsed outside Akron Children's Hospital after suffering sudden cardiac arrest, a severe heart arrhythmia that causes the organ to stop pumping. Her life was saved by Akron firefighters who performed cardiopulmonary resuscitation and shocked her heart back into rhythm using an AED.
"They gave me less than a 5 percent chance of ever waking," Nelson said. "And guaranteed severe brain damage... needless to say, here I am."
"I would say it's a medical miracle," said Nelson's cardiologist, Dr. Robert Schweikert M.D. of the Akron General Medical Center. "The key thing is having that defibrillation available right away."
Nelson had no health problems or warning before suffering her arrest. She is an outspoken advocate of the increased availability of AEDs.
"The shocks are a vital part to keeping a life going," Nelson said.
She spent months recovering and had to relearn to walk, talk, eat and care for herself. She now has an implanted defibrillator. She also has a 5-year-old daughter who wants to one day be a heart doctor.
"My biggest dream in life was always to be a mom," Nelson said. "I'm just so blessed in life to be a mom to this little girl and to know that god gave me that chance, and a second chance at life."