There is a big difference between a heart attack and sudden cardiac arrest, and Judy Mims wants you to know the difference. Sudden cardiac arrest means that you stop breathing, and you are likely to die without cardio-pulmonary resuscitation and shock treatment from a defibrillator. You can still have a pulse with a heart attack.
Mims suffered sudden cardiac arrest in the restroom at the Target store in Lodi on Nov. 16, 2008. She almost died at age 56, but she was revived by Lodi firefighters and American Medical Response ambulance workers.
After a recovery that lasted several months, she returned to her fifth-grade classroom at John Muir Elementary School in North Stockton in July 2009.
If you looked at her today, you wouldn't think anything had happened to her. But appearances can be deceiving.
"My heart works at 15 percent function," said Mims, a 25-year Lodi resident. "I get tired very easily carrying things."
During a 2009 interview, Mims said she didn't recall what happened on Nov. 16, 2008, but she was on her way to Sunday school, where she teaches at First Baptist Church on Mills Avenue.
Sharon Brown and her twin sister, Shirley Hackett, said at the time that their other sister, Mims, stopped at Target on Kettleman Lane to get some cold medicine because she wasn't feeling well. Mims was in the restroom when she collapsed. A customer, also in the restroom, heard a crashing noise, left the restroom and told an employee, who called 911.
"I have no memory at all of what happened," Mims said in November 2009. "I don't know why I went to Target."
Mims' near-death experience has prompted her to start a local chapter of the Sudden Cardiac Arrest Association, a nonprofit organization to promote awareness of sudden cardiac arrest.
The organization's goals will be to educate the public about sudden cardiac arrest, arranging fundraisers to finance CPR training and to purchase defibrillators, which Mims says costs between $1,200 to $1,500 apiece, depending on the company.
Mims also wants to get people trained in CPR, such as employees at Target and other stores. She has already organized an upcoming CPR training session for teachers at John Muir.
She kicked off the association's new San Joaquin Valley chapter with a special program Saturday at Lodi's First Baptist Church. She thanked all the "heroes" who contributed to saving her life and keeping her alive.
Awards of thanks were given to Lodi firefighters Todd Wagner, Dave Mettler and Brian Jungeblut; Chad Sibbet, a paramedic from AMR; Target employees Gerri Silverdis and Evelyn Borjon; her cardiologist, the late Eric Braunstein; along with nurses, students and John Muir teachers who provided actual or moral support. Braunstein's award was accepted by his wife, Wendy.
Mims said she hopes to set up the first Sudden Cardiac Arrest Association meeting for mid-February. Anyone interested in becoming involved is welcome to attend.
The association has chapters nationwide, including five others in California, the nearest ones being in Sacramento and the Bay Area.
Contact reporter Ross Farrow at firstname.lastname@example.org.