His heart stopped while watching TV. His wife kept him alive.

By Diane Daniel, American Heart Association News

Cardiac arrest survivor Dave Ogle (left) with his wife, Kris Patrow. (Photo courtesy of Dave Ogle)
Cardiac arrest survivor Dave Ogle (left) with his wife, Kris Patrow. (Photo courtesy of Dave Ogle)

After a seven-hour drive back home with his family to Woodbury, Minnesota, Dave Ogle planned to do what he always did: haul his suitcases upstairs to unpack and do laundry.

"Dave, please, let's just relax and leave it for tomorrow," said his wife, Kris Patrow.

He reluctantly agreed and joined her on the couch to watch their favorite new series, "Yellowstone."

A few minutes into the show, Ogle made a raspy sound. The noise was so startling that Patrow jerked her head around to check on him.

Ogle's eyes and mouth were open, but he wasn't moving. His head had flopped onto the back of the couch.

She shook him and shouted his name. Nothing.

He wasn't breathing.

Ogle, 53, had gone into cardiac arrest. His heart wasn't beating.

Less than a year before, Patrow had taken a CPR class at work. The training kicked in.

She rolled him off the couch onto the floor, called 911 and started chest compressions.

After nearly 10 minutes, paramedics arrived. They took over CPR, then connected Ogle to an automated external defibrillator, or AED. The portable electronic device analyzes the heart rhythm and, if needed, can deliver a shock to try restoring a normal rhythm. In between, he received CPR from a mechanical CPR device designed to deliver continuous chest compressions. It took seven shocks from the AED to trigger a sustainable rhythm.

They rushed Ogle to a hospital that specialized in cardiac arrest. He was put into a coma to stabilize him and let his brain and body recover.

Speaking to his family, doctors painted a grim picture. They didn't know what condition Ogle would be in when he came out of the coma, or whether he would ever live a normal life again. At the very least, they assumed he would need to go into a rehabilitation hospital for many months.

While there was no obvious reason for Ogle's cardiac arrest, doctors said it could be due to stress. The week before, his software crashed, compromising a major project days before a deadline; he salvaged the work, yet the whole ordeal was extremely nerve-wracking. He'd also experienced a series of tragic personal losses: In 2015, his 21-year-old son from his first marriage died of a drug overdose. In 2016, his mother died of ongoing complications from multiple sclerosis and, within a year, his dad – who in Ogle's opinion had lost his will to live after the death of his wife of 57 years – also died.

Still, with no definitive answer, doctors opted to play it safe by placing an implantable cardioverter defibrillator in his chest to monitor his heart rhythm and deliver a shock if needed.

After three and a half weeks, Ogle came out of the coma.

"Where's my wife?" he asked the nurse.

When Patrow's phone rang, she recalls a nurse saying, "I have good news. Somebody's asking for you."

Patrow cried all the way to the hospital until she was in her husband's arms.

While he'd survived, there was still a long road to recovery.

Physically, Ogle had very little strength after being in bed for nearly a month. Cognitively, the brain trauma left him needing to relearn many things.

He could remember the names of people he knew well, but not objects. His speech was slurred.

One of his biggest challenges was relearning how to swallow. After waking up, he didn't eat a solid meal for a month.

In his career as a TV photojournalist and later shooting and editing corporate videos, Ogle always thrived on deadlines. He considered it his superpower. He applied this drive to his recovery.

"I thought, 'I'm just going to work and work and work and get myself back to where I need to be,'" he said.

He spent a little over a month in hospital rehab facilities, much less than doctors had predicted. He continued making progress with outpatient rehab after he came home in September 2019.

Only recently, some four years after his cardiac arrest, has Ogle felt he's recovered. He's not sure if he could have relearned his job skills because he didn't bother trying.

"I don't want to put myself in situations where I have all those deadlines," he said.

He now works at a retail store near his home. He likes the small staff, the physical activity and very little stress.

His other work project is co-writing a book with his wife about their experience. They want to spread the word about cardiac arrest and the value of CPR.

Ogle said his personality also has changed – in a positive way.

"I'm a much more open person," he said. "I share more and put my feelings out there."

Patrow said that metamorphosis has affected their lives in many ways.

"Dave got much closer to our kids, and he's way more open emotionally," she said. "He's much less worried about the small stuff."

Dave (right) and Kris in Paris in 2020. (Photo courtesy of Dave Ogle)
Dave Ogle (right) and Kris Patrow in Paris in 2020. (Photo courtesy of Dave Ogle)

That includes finances, she said. While Ogle is still frugal, he's now willing to spend money on things like vacations to Europe and a new home.

"I used to be so hesitant, but now I think, why are we holding back?" he said. "What am I afraid of? Life is short."

Stories From the Heart chronicles the inspiring journeys of heart disease and stroke survivors, caregivers and advocates.

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