Noah CooperAge: 29
City: New York
State: New York
My Name is Noah Cooper, and on April 13th of 2013 at the age of 27 while running on a treadmill I had a severe arrhythmia and went into cardiac arrest. The arrest was related to a pre-existing heart condition that I have, Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy (HCM). I was given high quality CPR and the emergency responders upon arriving used a defibrillator to shock my heart back to a normal rhythm. From there, I was put into a medically induced coma to receive hypothermia to minimize damage to my other vital organs.
After two failed attempts to wean me off the respirator due to my HCM, I developed Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome (ARDS). At this point, because my lungs were so damaged, the chances of survival looked bleak. The Columbia/New York Presbyterian doctors arrived at Bellevue Hospital (where I was at the time) with a portable ECMO machine. The doctors successfully put me on the portable ECMO, transferred me to Columbia, and then put me on the full sized ECMO machine, which I would remain hooked up to for the next 15 days.
As my lungs recovered I was taken off ECMO and the doctors and nurses began to wean me off the sedatives. My first memories are sometime in early May (nearly a month after the initial incident), yet the details remain fuzzy. I don’t remember the entire process. I actually suffered from retro-grade amnesia and barely remember the week leading up to the incident. The one thing I do remember is my dreams. I’ll never know at what point they occurred (while I was on ECMO or afterwards) but I do remember how vivid and bizarre they were and they will forever be engrained in my mind.
I left the hospital on May 8th having lost 35 pounds, with a defibrillator implanted, and bedsores on my head that lead to substantial hair loss. I truthfully felt like I had just been a prisoner of war, and while I was grateful to be alive, my spirit had definitely been taken down a few rungs. The complications would continue to pop up (thankfully none to my heart or lungs) and I felt like I was playing the arcade game “whack a mole” where you fix one thing and then another issue rears its ugly head. At times it was difficult to stay positive, but you have to continue to forge on and realize that things could be a lot worse.
As exciting as it is to leave the hospital, it can be daunting. You will be given a laundry list of instructions on how to live your life — from medication schedules to rehab. Make sure that everything is 100% clear before you leave the hospital, and don’t be afraid to ask questions and ask and ask them again. In your eagerness to leave the hospital you may overlook just how important these instructions really are.
I went back to work 10 days after leaving the hospital (admittedly, looking back it was too soon), but I craved normalcy and couldn’t sit at home another day sulking about what I had gone through. Getting back to normal was my goal, and while “normal” can definitely be a moving target, it probably took 6-8 months to get to a place where I was comfortable. During your recovery, write down the things that make you feel good and try to hold onto the positives. For me, it became a fresh start to live a healthier life both physically and emotionally. I’m here if you ever want to chat.