It was the Monday following President’s Day weekend. Scott Kern was anticipating a busy day in his Executive Office at Dollar Tree Headquarters in Chesapeake, VA. Before he arrived at work, he’d spent some time in the gym, working out, preparing for a doctor’s appointment scheduled for the next day. Kern proceeded to skip multiple flights of stairs, and as he approached his office, he collapsed going into cardiac arrest. Seconds later, a colleague began to administer cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), while another suggested the use of an automated external defibrillator (AED). Thanks to the immediate response by his co-workers, Kern made it to Chesapeake Regional Medical Center; less than 3 miles from the office.
Cardiac arrest occurs when a person’s heart abruptly stops pumping blood, which can be fatal if not immediately treated with CPR or a defibrillator to restore normal heart rhythm. According to the American Heart Association, about 350,000 cardiac arrests occur outside the hospital each year in the U.S., most often in a person’s home. People who receive CPR from family, friends or strangers while waiting for emergency personnel to arrive are twice as likely to survive as those who don’t.
Weeks went by, while Kern’s state of health did not improve. Medical professionals discovered he’d suffered a major heart attack amongst other ailments. Kern unaware, remained in a medically induced coma. His wife Trisha found herself in turmoil, dropping everything to care for her husband in addition to maintaining school activities and some sense of normalcy for their 4-year-old daughter. Family, friends and even strangers, came to the support of the Kern family, doing whatever they could, to contribute to the well-being of the man loved by so many.
“I remember calling my dad saying, ‘Dad, what if he doesn’t make it? Are we going to be, okay?’ I would not let anyone in his room who was prepared to speak negatively. If there was an update from a nurse or doctor that didn’t look good, I would ask to step outside and discuss because in my mind, I felt if my husband could hear us, he needed to hear happiness, joy, and laughter only. To remind him that we were going to make it out of this, and he would be okay,” expressed Trisha Kern.
After spending eleven days in a medically induced coma, Kern awoke on his daughters fifth birthday. As the days toward healing progressed, Kern began to learn how to write again and walk again, realizing that he would need to make significant lifestyle changes. Together, Scott and Trisha Kern made the decision to become advocates for CPR and AED awareness as well as volunteers for the American Heart Association. Today, Kern, serves on the Board of Directors for the American Heart Association Hampton Roads, and uses his story as an example that could happen to anyone. He thanks the continued funding, research, and mission of the AHA, for providing the tools he needed to survive.
To learn more about CPR and AED awareness, visit https://cpr.heart.org/en/.