Wesley Chapel cardiac arrest survivor donates AED device

Karen Ledford and Dr. Kyle Jones.

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Wesley Chapel resident Karen Ledford now has two birthdays.

Ledford celebrates her first birthday on March 24 and she celebrates her re-birthday on July 12 of every year.

Like her first birthday, Ledford has no recollection of her re-birthday that occurred on July 12, 2013.

It was on that day that Ledford suffered cardiac arrest at her home she shares with her husband, Eric Schwabenlender.

Ledford collapsed at her home mid-morning on that day and she spent over two weeks in the hospital after quick-acting neighbors Maureen Renda and Patti Murphy and local EMS personnel saved Ledford’s life.

Ledford remembers nothing of the events of Friday, July 12, 2013.

“I actually have two weeks of amnesia,” Ledford said. “I don’t remember the week of the cardiac arrest and I don’t remember the week after. I don’t remember anything until my last day in ICU.”

Now, Ledford is paying it forward by donating AED (automated external defibrillator) machines to non-profits. After recovering physically and emotionally, Ledford became a certified CPR instructor and she formed From the Heart CPR.

Ledford uses all the money she collects from teaching CPR classes to purchase AEDs, which cost around $1,000 each. She donated her second AED on Friday, Oct. 6 to the Wesley Chapel Weddington Athletic Association at the organizations complex of athletic fields.

A second AED was donated to the complex by Dr. Kyle B. Jones of Carolinas Chiropractic and Spinal Rehab of Waxhaw. Jones was a repeat client of Ledford’s CPR classes and donated the money to purchase one of the AEDs presented on Oct. 6

The event was attended by several dozen people, including her neighbors, local policemen and area EMS personnel among others. Ledford teaches several classes a month and she also offers free CPR classes to local youth coaches.

“We cardiac arrest survivors celebrate our re-birthday, Ledford said. “I have two birthdays and I was looking for a way to celebrate my re-birthday. The first year, I hosted a cookout for all my neighbors that helped out. I hosted a CPR class but I couldn’t attend because it was too emotional for me.

“By the second year, I decided to teach others CPR. It saved my life so it can save someone else’s. Six months later, I said, ‘hey I’m going to start saving the money from the classes and buy AEDs for non-profits.’ That is where From the Heart CPR came from.”

Since suffering cardiac arrest, Ledford said she has learned a lot about cardiac arrest and heart attacks.

“I thought I had a heart attack but the cardiologist said I had cardiac arrest,” Ledford said. “Cardiac arrest is more of an electrical malfunction where a heart attack is a plumbing issue like a clogged artery. We do not know what caused it (Ledford’s cardiac arrest).

“I was on vacation that week and I ran a couple of errands that morning. About 10 that morning, my husband found me collapsed in the house. He couldn’t arouse me and he called 911 and then went to two of our neighbors. They (neighbors) came over and they were the ones that did CPR until the paramedics arrived.”

Paramedics from Wesley Chapel and Union County arrived at about the same time and quickly went to work on Ledford.

“They continued CPR and they actually had to shock me five times,” Ledford said. “The survival rate for somebody outside the hospital having cardiac arrest is usually less than 10 percent.

“That was my first hospitalization ever. I spent a week in the ICU and a week on the cardiac floor.”

Now, Ledford is working to making sure others have a chance to survive cardiac arrest and get a second birthday. Over, 300,000 people a year suffer cardiac arrest.

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Paul Nielsen
Nielsen was a sports writer for what is now the Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette for nearly 32 years before moving to North Carolina in February 2016. At the Democrat-Gazette, Nielsen's primary responsibility was beat coverage for Rogers High School. Rogers is a Class 7A school located in Northwest Arkansas.
Nielsen, a University of Arkansas graduate, covered the Northwest Arkansas Naturals Minor League Baseball team from 2008-2015. The Naturals are the Double-A affiliate of the Kansas City Royals.
Nielsen has experience covering University of Arkansas athletics, including NCAA Tournament basketball games and several football bowl games. He also covered amateur and professional golf tournaments in Northwest Arkansas.
Nielsen lives in Matthews with his wife, Susan. He can be reached at ripig1979@yahoo.com.