On Oct. 27, 2021, Delya Sommerville joined her jogging club for their usual Wednesday run around Capitol Hill, but for Delya, that morning is a blur. She doesn’t remember waking up, putting on her sneakers, or starting her workout. After going to bed the evening before, the next thing she recalls is waking up in the hospital three days later and being told she survived a cardiac arrest.
During her run, Delya quickly fell behind her fellow joggers and collapsed near the south barricade of the United States Capitol. Moments later, she was spotted on the cold pavement by another runner and member of Congress who notified U.S. Capitol Police (USCP).
USCP officers arrived on the scene to find Delya without a pulse. They called 911, immediately started CPR and administered an Automated External Defibrillator (AED) to restart her heart.
DC Fire & EMS transported Delya to a nearby hospital where she underwent surgery to address plaque build-up in her arteries.
Despite borderline high cholesterol, Delya had no known risk factors at the time of her cardiac arrest. She said her story demonstrates the importance of knowing your numbers, advocating for your health, and learning lifesaving CPR skills. “As a woman, signs are different. Symptoms are different, and sometimes, you’re not taken seriously,” she said. “If you look fit, young, and everything else seems fine, you can get dismissed.”
Every year, more than 350,000 people experience an out-of-hospital cardiac arrest, and only 1 in 10 victims survive. Early access to emergency medical services and CPR provide the foundation for subsequent treatment and successful resuscitation, often doubling a person’s chance of survival.
In December, Delya, her husband Patrick, and their two children met her CPR heroes and care team during a reunion recognizing the DC Fire & EMS employees, USCP officers, and other first responders who saved her life.
“You didn’t know who I was, but you were there for me. You are my heroes,” Delya said during the ceremony. “You saved my life, and I’m able to be with my family and friends right now. We will never be able to thank you enough.”
Today, she often reflects on the community of bystanders who gave her a second chance at life – from the Congresswoman who stopped running to notify USCP and three fellow joggers who carried flashlights while first responders administered CPR to the USCP officer who held onto her glasses when they were left on the scene.
“It’s been really amazing meeting the people who helped me, and it was very important for me to recognize them,” she said. “There’s a whole community of people who just helped to save one person – me.”
It only takes 90 seconds to learn the two steps to save a life. Watch our Hands-Only CPR demonstration at CPR.Heart.org.