Cardiac arrest survivor urges nursing students to protect, listen to the body

November 16, 2011

An Indiana State University alumna and former registered nurse endured a grueling 73 minutes without a heartbeat, a story she uses to convey the importance of a solid knowledge of CPR and paying the body proper attention.

Becky Halon was just 28 years old when she became a victim of cardiac arrest, not much older than the group of students she spoke with during a recent general meeting of the ISU Student Nurses' Association.

Senior Renee Buettner, treasurer of the Student Nurses' Association, knew that Halon's "inspirational story" would resonate with the students and future nurses.

"We wanted to let the people who support and are a part of the nursing program here at ISU know how important it is to listen to your body and take care of your body because even at a young age, serious health problems can occur," Buettner said.

Halon retold her story of what happened the night of July 1, 2010. Feeling more fatigued than normal, she went into cardiac arrest while getting ready for bed. Her husband, Josh, also a registered nurse, heard the "death rattle," or deep, gasping noises from the bathroom, and immediately administered CPR.

Rushed to the hospital while her three kids miraculously stayed asleep, Halon's heart still did not respond after 15 shocks. Given "the look" that doctors often have when a situation appears dire, Josh refused to stop giving her CPR. It was within 30 seconds that Halon's heart began beating again.

Two weeks after a 24-hour hypothermia treatment, implanting a cardiac defibrillator and being admitted into Methodist Hospital's ICU, Halon experienced a breakthrough. Her first words were, "I'm so thankful to be alive."

Though a long recovery ensued of relearning everyday tasks, such as walking and drinking through a straw, Halon kept her faith close and lived by a phrase her mother often said: "Inch by inch, life is a cinch. Yard by yard, life is very hard." She also credits her husband, who responded quickly with the CPR and never gave up on her.

Halon now works as a CPR instructor and an advocate for the American Heart Association's Go Red for Women campaign. Missing her work as a registered nurse, she hopes to one day be able to go back to work in the ICU of Indiana University West Health Hospital.

"We wanted to inspire our audience that nurses do make a difference," Buettner said, "Becky definitely inspired me as a nurse, student and leader."

Photo: http://isuphoto.smugmug.com/Events/SNA-Becky-Halon/i-9xvWjjW/0/L/DSC5803-L.jpg - Becky Halon, a graduate of Indiana State University's nursing program, spoke to nursing students on Nov. 9, 2011 about her experience as a victim of cardiac arrest at age 28. (ISU/Rachel Keyes)

Photo: http://isuphoto.smugmug.com/Events/SNA-Becky-Halon/i-Bt67TkD/0/S/DSC5770-S.jpg - ISU nursing students listen as Becky Halon, at podium and on the screen, describes a harrowing 2010 experience when her heart stopped beating for 73 minutes. Halon, an ISU nursing graduate, spoke to the Student Nurses' Association on Nov. 9, 2011. (ISU/Rachel Keyes)  

Contact: Dara Reberger, president, Student Nurses' Association, Indiana State University, dreberger1@sycamores.indstate.edu

Writer: Mallory Metheny, media relations assistant, Office of Communications and Marketing, Indiana State University, 812-237-3773