Krysta’s Heart Stopped on the Operating Table. Now She’s Reclaiming Her Rhythm During American Heart Month!

On the morning of September 24, 2021, Krysta headed into the doctor for a pre-scheduled hip surgery. As an active 30-year-old with no pre-existing conditions or serious health concerns, Krysta anticipated a simple operation. The last thing she remembers is going under anesthesia around 11 a.m.

Two days later, she woke up confined to a hospital bed. Her heart had stopped on the operating table.

With about 90% of her surgery complete, Krysta went into cardiac arrest and was revived after 6 minutes of compressions and two shocks to the heart. She was life-flighted to a hospital in Washington, DC, where she was later diagnosed with stress-induced cardiomyopathy.

“It was so unexpected,” Krysta said, reflecting on the shock she felt when she first woke up in the hospital. “There were no health concerns, and I’m so cautious to make sure I’m eating healthy and working out. We try to control the situation and watch everything we’re putting into our body, but emotional stress just really takes a toll on you.”

Stress-induced cardiomyopathy, commonly referred to as broken heart syndrome or takotsubo cardiomyopathy, is a reaction to a surge of stress hormones and usually is triggered by an emotional event.

As a social worker serving individuals facing homelessness in Alexandria, Virginia, Krysta is a mental health advocate for her clients, often connecting them with local resources and serving in a crisis management role. Now, she’s using her experience as a cardiac arrest survivor and mental health advocate to remind others to “take a me moment” and prioritize their overall well-being.

“I preach self-care in my work, but sometimes you forget to do it for yourself. Just take a moment for yourself every day to reflect or just breathe,” she said.

Prolonged stress can have real consequences on emotional and physical wellness, and chronic stressors like long work hours, financial stress and work-life conflict may be as detrimental to your overall health as secondhand smoke. The impact of stress is amplified by the COVID-19 pandemic with more than half of U.S. adults saying the pandemic has negatively impacted their mental well-being.

“Especially during COVID, it’s like this constant ball of stress that keeps rolling and rolling and rolling. Sometimes we forget to just take a step back and really focus on self-care,” Krysta said.

For Krysta, taking that step back means reclaiming her “me time” and getting back to her active lifestyle by slowly returning to boxing, lifting weights, and running.

During Heart Month, the American Heart Association is helping you reclaim your rhythm by creating healthy habits that work in your life and give you the best chance at a long life. There are so many ways to take control of your health by mellowing out and reducing stress, moving to your favorite music, keeping the beat by learning hands-only CPR, staying on the beat with blood pressure and rocking heart-healthy recipes! Find more ways to “reclaim your rhythm” and rock your red on Friday, February 4 for National Wear Red Day.

Get connected with local Heart Month resources and tag us on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram with #GoRedDC to show us how you go red all month long!