Kristin Toussing was 29 when she went into cardiac arrest at home. A firefighter with an AED saved her life.
LAWRENCE, Indiana – “Without the AED, my heart rhythm would not have been restored. It made all the difference,” said Kristin Toussing, a sudden cardiac arrest survivor.
Kristin and her husband Justin have learned to appreciate each day together and their three children after a typical September day in 2017 almost became Kristin’s last.
“I got up and did the mommy thing — made breakfast, packed lunches, and definitely noticed a bit of chest pain,” Kristin said. “But it seemed like it probably wasn’t anything. I took a shower and thought I’d lie down for a bit. Justin decided to get ready for work and happened to come back into the bedroom to find me on the bed. “
At the age of 29, Kristin suffered cardiac arrest. Justin, who was off-duty at IMPD at the time, jumped into action and called 911.
“And I did CPR for six minutes and 30 seconds while on the phone to emergency services and while the fire was coming. Lawrence Fire Engine 36 came up the stairs and made it great. They brought in the AED and had Kristin hooked up. Her heart didn’t beat the time and they gave her the shock and were able to get her heartbeat back,” Justin said.
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After intensive treatments and 11 days in the hospital, Kristin was able to go home and finally made a full recovery.
Others are not so lucky. Sudden cardiac arrest can be fatal for many.
This AED shock saved Kristin’s life that day five years ago.
Over the years, law enforcement officers in the state of Indiana have slowly added AEDs to their units.
“The more of them we can have in all emergency vehicles, the more likely they’ll save a life,” said Sgt. John Perrin.
Perrine said thanks to donations from Bolt from the Heart, AEDs have been placed in all ISP patrol units — more than 500 of them in units with on-duty and off-duty officers statewide.
“We’ve had several life saves with these tools that might not have been possible without them. Most recently, Soldiers at the Indianapolis 500 used an AED to resuscitate a gentleman who survived as a result, and we’re certainly glad those Soldiers were in the right place at the right time with the right tools,” said Perrine.
Because AEDs are so accessible, law enforcement officials say they can bring life to someone in seconds, rather than waiting for additional help to arrive.
“Sometimes we get there before the medics do,” said IMPD Sgt. Genae Cook.
Since 2019, Bolt from the Heart has been working to introduce AEDs to IMPD units as well.
So far, Cook said, more than 170 IMPD vehicles have them. They are working to slowly get AEDs out to all 1,600 officers. It’s an important tool, Cook said, especially when it comes to responding in rural areas.
“What we do in the first few minutes once we’re on the scene can either save a person’s life or prolong their circumstances so they can get to the hospital and receive additional medical treatment that will allow them to survive,” he said Cook.
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For the Toussings, they now regularly carry an AED with them, traveling to work and home with Justin just in case. They say that day has changed so much how they live.
“Yes, it definitely does,” Kristin said.
“It definitely made (us) reevaluate our priorities and maybe live life differently and be even more grateful for each day,” Justin said.
And grateful for every day her family has spent together since then.
Bolt for the Heart hosts a 5,000th run every year on Thanksgiving to raise money to buy more AEDs. You can find out more or register for the run here.