Kate & Kevin Burns

Hero & Survivor
April 28, 2017

Kate & Kevin Burns

While we aren’t the kind of people to win raffles or drawings, we certainly won the ultimate lottery when Kevin survived sudden cardiac arrest while we were on the trip of a lifetime to Europe. We’d arrived in Florence, Italy, the day before and had an amazing time exploring the streets of one of the most beautiful places either of us had ever visited. Kate had made the comment during the day that she couldn’t imagine an ambulance making it through the streets because they were so narrow and busy.


Both of our lives change drastically in the early hours of the next morning. Kate woke up to Kevin making strange noises and tried to wake him, assuming it was a bad dream. When Kevin didn’t wake after several intense shakes, it became clear that something much more serious was happening. Kate ran down to the front desk to try to communicate to the Italian speaking host that emergency help was needed. The languages are quite different, but thankfully emergency sounds pretty similar in both. After the host picked up the phone to call for assistance, Kate ran back upstairs to Kevin.


Terror had set in at this point when she realized that Kevin had stopped breathing. She attempted to move him from the bed to the floor, but wasn’t able. Kate had been trained in CPR while in high school and knew that anything was better than nothing, so she began compressions with Kevin on the bed. She had also heard about hands only CPR, and not remembering the counts for regular CPR, decided to just do compressions. This lasted for several minutes until Kevin’s coloring began to noticeably change in a way that said he desperately needed air. Kate added several breaths to the CPR while awaiting the emergency responders.


In what seemed like an eternity, but was just over 10 minutes, the emergency responders made their way into the hotel room. They shocked Kevin twice before a normal heart rhythm returned. Kevin didn’t wake up though, and he was taken straight to the emergency room. The medical staff in the ER evaluated Kevin quickly and found no evidence as to why he went into cardiac arrest. In under an hour, he was moved to the intensive care unit. As fate would have it, the ICU had just recently been updated and had added the equipment necessary for therapeutic hypothermic comas.
A day and a half later, Kevin decided he wanted to let the world know he had made it against all odds. He fought through heavy sedation to open his eyes. The doctors decided to proceed with a temporary awakening and Kate was asked to enter the room to attempt to communicate with Kevin. When they locked eyes it became clear he knew just who she was. After spending long hours fearing the worst, it was the best moment of Kate’s life. Doctors and nurses told Kate time and time again that the outcome wouldn’t have been the same had she not given Kevin CPR while waiting for emergency responders.


Fast forward a year and a half later, Kevin has miraculously recovered without implications that many survivors face. And while he never received an answer as to why the SCA occurred, he has an ICD as backup should anything come up in the future. Knowing how blessed we are, it has become our mission to share knowledge and awareness about the lifesaving power of CPR and AEDs. From medical jargon to difficult decisions, survivors and families are thrown into a foreign world after SCA. We are also committed to helping others as they navigate the intimidating process of post-SCA life.


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