Life vest saves hearts

April 21, 2010

A life vest you've never seen before. This vest can give your heart the jump-start it needs when lives are at risk.

More than 1.2 million Americans will have a heart attack this year. Up to 450,000 will experience cardiac arrest. This means their heart will stop beating, and they could die within minutes.

A wife, a mother, a dancer. All this almost came to an end for Stacey Alcala.

"My chest was caving in, and my arm was going numb," said Alcala.

Stacey had a heart attack, something she never thought would happen at age 29.

"I'm very active. Eat right, best I can. Exercise a lot," said Alcala.

But all of that did not stop her artery from tearing.

"The only thing that came to my head was, 'what could this do to my girls?'"

Stacey survived and was sent home from the hospital with the first wearable defibrillator. Heart attack survivors like Stacey are at a 12% increased risk for a sudden cardiac arrest the first three months following the attack. This life vest offers immediate protection.

"The vest has electrodes that go on the surface of the skin that both record the heart's electrical activity like an ekg and can deliver an electrical shock, much like the paramedics would in an emergency situation," said Brian Deville, MD Electrophysiologist at the Heart Hospital Baylor Plano.

When a patient's heart stops beating, a warning is given.

If the patient does not respond, the vest takes over.

"The shock is actually delivered through here and an electrode on the back," said Deville.

It allows patients to go home faster from the hospital, feeling safer about the distance between them and help. Stacey wore the life vest for six weeks. Soon after that, she was back to playing with her kids and dancing.

The life vest is used in heart attack patients whose heart muscle function has decreased 35 to 60 percent.

The life vest does not prevent a heart attack but treats a cardiac arrest.

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