Lisa Boyd, 42, Taupo, NZ
My barber shop was a hive of activity as I walked around chatting to customers. I’d run the place for eight years and loved it.
‘How was last night?’ asked my employee, Sally.
‘It was fantastic,’ I smiled, explaining I’d spent it with my kids, Jessica, 11, and James, 10. But as I tried to speak again, everything went black and I fell to the floor. To my shock, I woke up in a stark white room.
I’m in hospital, I realised. The kids and my younger sister Mandy were in tears, sitting around the bed.
‘Oh Mum, you’re awake!’ cried James, jumping up.
‘You’ve been in a coma for 24 hours!’ said Jessica.
‘The doctors say you had a cardiac arrest,’ sobbed Mandy.
‘What? How did that happen?’ I asked groggily.
‘You just collapsed,’ said Mandy. ‘So Sally fetched Hayden Carthew from the cafe nearby!’ Hayden, a chef who’d been a paramedic for 10 years, rushed to my side and performed CPR. He got my heart going as the ambulance arrived, but on the way to hospital I died again – twice. Incredibly, the paramedics managed to revive me both times. I was stunned. I could feel the bruises on my chest from the pounding I’d received to get my heart beating again.
How could this happen? I’d always thought of myself as healthy and was only 42!
Later on, a doctor spoke to me to try and find out the cause.
‘I’ve been pretty stressed from my relationship break-up,’ I admitted. ‘So I’ve been drinking coffee and energy drinks to keep me going – about three of each a day.’
That morning, before my collapse, I’d had a can of energy drink and a cup of coffee before I’d even seen my first customer. I could feel my heart beating faster as the caffeine soared through my system.
‘You’ve been having too much caffeine, but I don’t know if that caused your cardiac arrest,’ said the doctor. After two weeks in hospital I was fitted with a defibrillator, which would immediately kick in if my heart stopped again. I’d also need check-ups every three months. A month later, I was finally allowed to go back to work.
‘It’s so great to have you back,’ cried Sally. ‘Did you see any bright lights when you died?’
‘No, I must have been too busy dying!’ I joked.
Of course I went and gave Hayden a big hug. ‘Thank you for saving my life,’ I said. ‘You were my guardian angel.’
‘I just got on with the job,’ he said. ‘I thought of your kids and my instinct and training kicked in.’
‘I’m so grateful,’ I replied. ‘I wouldn’t be here without you.’ Of course, I gave him free haircuts after that!
I no longer drink coffee or energy drinks. It took a while to get over the caffeine withdrawal but now I feel great. But I still can’t believe I died three times in one day.
Hopefully I’m like a cat and have six more lives up my sleeve
As told to Jan Morgan
Originally published in that's life! Issue 37, 2016.