Ignoring This Warning Sign Nearly Cost This 24-Year-Old Her Life

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People, as a general population, are pretty smart. Though our bodies are sometimes confusing, mystifying things that conduct a million processes every second to keep us running, we can usually still tell when something is wrong with it.

Sometimes, perhaps against our better judgement, we ignore these signals and continue on with our lives. Unsurprisingly, that usually only allows for that issue to get worse and worse, with the potential climax being a fatal medical emergency.

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A Bodily Fright

Medical emergencies can happen to anybody. If you’ve had one yourself, or witnessed someone else have one, you know just how harrowing an experience it can be. Oftentimes, surprise crises like come without any warning, and bring to light an underlying health issue previously unknown to the victim.

An ambulance driving down a road.
Unsplash / Reeet Jank
Unsplash / Reeet Jank

What if you see signs beforehand though? Would that make you more prepared? A woman who ignored a massive signal that led to a near-death experience has begun sharing her story, hoping others heed her own warnings if they ever feel unwell.

Almost Completely Unexpected

Brittany Williams had the fright of a lifetime in 2014 when she went into cardiac arrest while at a restaurant in Times Square, New York City. She was 24 years old at the time.

Brittany Williams standing outside a restaurant.
Instagram / Brittany Williams
Instagram / Brittany Williams

She lost consciousness at her table. Upon noticing, two strangers lept into action and began giving her CPR for eight straight minutes until emergency personnel arrived. She was then put into a medical coma to stabilize.

She woke up two days later in the hospital, alive and well.

Learn From Her

Nearly 10 years after the incident, she’s opening up about her experience to raise awareness about heart health, emphasize the importance of CPR training, and share the warning signs she had missed leading up to her heart failure. She was incredibly lucky to survive what happened to her, as 90% of people who experience cardiac arrest outside of a hospital die from it.

Brittany Williams standing by a sign encouraging people to learn CPR.
Brittany Williams
Brittany Williams

But first, it’s important to draw a distinction between cardiac arrest and a heart attack. Yes, the two are heart-related, potentially fatal malfunctions, but the causes and actual bodily processes are very different.

The Major Differences

A heart attack is caused by a direct blockage in the heart, a buildup of plaque that breaks off and forms a blood clot, the clot itself being what causes the attack.

A plastic, 3D model of a heart on a stand.
Unsplash / Jesse Orrico
Unsplash / Jesse Orrico

Meanwhile, cardiac arrest occurs when the body has an “electrical problem,” so to speak. There’s a malfunction in the nerves connected to the heart, causing it to suddenly stop beating.

It’s possible to reverse cardiac arrest by administering proper CPR until a defibrillator can be used to shock the patient’s heart back into working order.

Going Numb

Now, both a heart attack and cardiac arrest can occur without any warning or any obvious symptoms ahead of time. In Williams’ case though, she had written off what’s considered a major red flag the week before it happened.

Brittany Williams while on the TODAY.

“I was at work, and all of a sudden the left side of my body went numb and tingly,” she told Today. “I sat back and thought, ‘Oh no, this doesn’t feel right. This is not what I feel like on a day-to-day basis.'”

Outside Influences

She was concerned initially, knowing that wasn’t normal for her and likely not healthy. She Googled her symptoms and was presented with three possible causes: a stroke, a heart attack, or cardiac arrest.

Brittany Williams at a banquet dinner, holding a sign that says 'survivor'.
Facebook / Mount Sinai Morningside
Facebook / Mount Sinai Morningside

She then told her boss, who dismissed the concern. “‘You’re 24 years old. You run five miles a day. You eat extremely healthy, that would never happen to you’,” her boss had said.

“I trusted her. And three days later, I was on the ground in a restaurant in Times Square with no pulse.”

The First Drop

She says she doesn’t remember much about going into cardiac arrest, but her parents, with whom she was at the restaurant and who saw it all go down, remember it with great detail. “My mom and dad looked over, and they thought I was having a seizure. My eyes rolled to the back of my head, and I just collapsed, and I was unresponsive.”

Brittany Williams when she was in the hospital receiving treatment.

One can only imagine the fear they felt in that moment, seeing an extreme medical crisis happen before their very eyes.

Preventative Measures

While in recovery at the hospital, Williams was diagnosed with long QT syndrome, which is a condition that causes a fast, irregular heartbeat.

Brittany Williams when she was recovering in the hospital, surrounded by flowers and balloons.
Instagram / Brittan Williams
Instagram / Brittan Williams

Dr. Stacey Rosen, a cardiologist at Northwell Health’s Katz Institute for Women’s Health, explained it as “an electric disturbance that makes the heart rhythm chaotic, and then the heart can’t pump normally. After a few seconds, you lose consciousness.”

Williams had to have surgery to get a defibrillator implanted to prevent future episodes and regulate her heartbeat.

Strength In Knowledge

After the incident, Williams says she was “in a state of constant fear” about suddenly having another episode. “But I knew deep down that I had gotten a second chance at life, and I wasn’t going to waste it.”

Brittany Williams wearing a shirt that says 'survivor'.
Instagram / Brittany Williams
Instagram / Brittany Williams

She’s now made it her mission to encourage as many people as possible to get CPR training and commit it to memory, “so there can be more stories with endings like mine.”

As advice to all, Rosen said, “Listen to your body. Heart disease affects young people, old people, thin, healthy runners. And when you feel something isn’t right, act on it.”

Protecting Yourself

Advocating for one’s own health can be tough at times, especially when factors like age, weight, or otherwise cause others to brush off concerns or point the blame elsewhere. No one knows your body as you do, and no one knows when something is off the way you would.

A doctor holding a stethescope with his arms crossed.
Unsplash / Online Marketing
Unsplash / Online Marketing

If you think something is wrong, always seek a professional opinion, and keep pushing until you get the necessary tests to determine what’s happening. You and your body both deserve to be treated with respect and legitimacy.

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Daniel Mitchell-Benoit

Dan is a content writer with three years of experience under their belt, having mostly covered viral media but now shifting toward spirituality and astrology. He’s a strong believer in using one’s beliefs as a means of self-improvement and being in touch with whatever messages the universe has to offer.

He can’t wait to share his insights with a[…]