Cardiac arrest survivor credits CPR with survival, now organizes training classes

INDIANAPOLIS - It was late June, and Erin Cassidy was eating dinner with her boyfriend at St. Elmo's Steak House in Indianapolis. Then, her heart suddenly stopped.

Cassidy describes it feeling as though a plug was pulled.

"Down they took me and went right into CPR, and he stayed with me and performed CPR until medics arrived," Cassidy said.

The person performing CPR on her was a bystander who happened to be a nurse – a bystander who Cassidy credits with saving her life.

Cassidy was diagnosed with sudden cardiac arrest, a medical condition that often causes rapid death. She spent eight days in the hospital to recover from the event.

Cassidy's friend Kristie West remembered getting the call about her near-death experience.

"I can't describe it," West said. "It was so emotional because I had no information. No clue. I didn't know she had any issues with her heart."

Now, Cassidy has made the near-life-ending episode into a life's mission.

"I thought, how could I not do something with this gift?" she said. "So for me, my passion cause became CPR, because in that moment somebody gave me back the quality of my life."

According to the American Heart Association, less than one-third of cardiac arrest victims receive CPR from someone nearby. Cassidy is hoping to raise that number by organizing CPR training classes, like one held Saturday.

Courteney Stocker was one of the students in attendance at that class.

"[I came] just to be able to be confident and able to help and save someone you love, or someone else's loved one, and not be helpless and have the confidence to do it," Stocker said.

Cassidy said she's glad she has the opportunity to help others learn CPR.

"People don't like to hear me say it," she said, "but I'm happy it happened to me, because going through recovery I knew that I needed to do something with being given the gift of life again."

As for Cassidy, after doctors implanted a defibrillator in her chest that delivers a normalizing electric shock in the event that her heart goes out of rhythm, she says she's doing great.

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