Elizabeth Hobbie: A 33-year-old woman is not supposed to die of a heart attack. I have a lot to live for. I'm Elizabeth Hobbie, and this is my story. I've always tried to walk for exercise. In just taking my normal walk one day, I started to feel pain—when going up hills, especially. Nothing was really helping, so eventually I went to my primary care physician, and she did an EKG in the office that same day. It was abnormal. She said, "I want you to see a cardiologist."
Matthew Hobbie, Elizabeth's husband: We initially didn't believe there could be anything seriously wrong—because we were young and took care of ourselves.
Eric Johnson, M.D., interventional cardiologist: The initial coronary arteriogram was surprising in that she had a nearly 99 percent blockage in the main left coronary artery. And then we viewed the right coronary artery and found the same thing.
Alex Horne, cardiovascular technologist: When we realized, angiographically, that she had this really severe issue going on, the room completely changed.
Dr. Johnson: She started to develop rhythm disturbances and went into what's called ventricular fibrillation. That's a cardiac arrest situation. So, we began the measures to resuscitate her heart. The problem was she wouldn't go out of ventricular fibrillation, despite all our best measures. We placed a stent in her left main coronary artery and got it fully open. But the heart was still fully arrested.
Matthew: I remember praying with the chaplain and telling our children that mama was very sick and that I love them very much.
Dr. Johnson: A decision was made that we would put her on cardiopulmonary bypass in the operating room.
Horne: CPR was being done down the hallway, in the elevator, up to the OR, into the OR, and kept going in the OR for at least an hour—until they were able to put the bypass machine in.
Matthew: The doctor came down afterward and told me there was a very real chance that she was brain dead.
Horne: I've never seen anybody recover after two hours of CPR.
Matthew: I prayed for Elizabeth and for our family and begged for her life.
The next day I was talking to her and holding her hand and telling her to open her eyes—and she did.
Johnson: And it only got more incredible over the next 30 days. We thought that her only recourse would be to get a heart transplant. So we made arrangements for her to go over to California Pacific Medical Center [CPMC] in San Francisco.
Matthew: After a couple of days at CPMC, her heart started beating again on its own.
Elizabeth: I remember waking up in the hospital room and seeing my extended family around the bed and just thinking, "Wow, everyone's here. What happened?" And I started breathing more on my own each day, until eventually they took the machine off after 11 days.
Matthew: Having Elizabeth healthy again means everything to me. I can't thank the doctors and nurses and technicians enough who cared for Elizabeth and saved her life.
Elizabeth: I think it was a miracle that so many pieces came together they way they did. I'm Elizabeth and that's my story.