After dying at work, a North Country woman is sharing her story

Celebrating her “first birthday” with family and friends one year after her heart stopped

Cortney Richter says she’s well-known at Samaritan Medical Center, the Watertown, NY hospital where she works.

“I died on the pharmacy floor, so I’m famous.” she says.

In November of 2021, Cortney was working a 12-hour shift when she stood up and felt dizzy. She crouched down and then collapsed. Her heart stopped. Thankfully, since she worked at a hospital, she received CPR immediately. It also took two shocks from an automated external defibrillator (AED) to restore Cortney’s heart to a normal rhythm.

Cortney woke up a few days later with no idea what happened. She thought the beeping of her machines in the hospital was her cell phone. One of her doctors noticed something odd about her heart rhythm and told her she may have Long QT Syndrome, a condition that can cause abnormal heart rhythms in response to exercise or stress.

Cortney and her dogs

Cortney now has a pacemaker and implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD) to help keep her heart on a normal rhythm and hasn’t had any issues since. She also underwent genetic testing to confirm the Long QT Syndrome. The genetic element of the condition added an extra stress for Cortney.

“My biggest fear is for my children,” she says, “Doctors tell me they will need to be tested for Long QT. I don’t know what it would mean if they do test positive.”

In general, Cortney lives a normal life. She takes daily medication, and she has to be careful about things that might impact her heart rhythm. She avoids things like rollercoasters, jump scares, or the shock of jumping into a cold pool. She’s still not sure why it happened that day in November.

Cortney at the 2022 North Country Heart Challenge

“I had been working strange shifts, like working until midnight and being back at seven in the morning,” Cortney says, “It may have been lack of sleep.” Cortney says she takes sleep much more seriously now. She says she used to be a night owl, but now she’s ready for bed by nine o’clock.

As an Inspirational Honoree at the North Country Heart Challenge, Cortney is looking forward to sharing her story. The 2022 Heart Challenge was the first time she truly saw herself as a survivor. She said seeing her name on the Tribute Wall, and the entire event, was an emotional experience.

“I crossed the Finish Line and I cried.”