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Published on June 03, 2019

Frozen in Time: Life-Saving Cardiac Treatment Reboots Patient’s Life

Heart attack survivor

A decade ago, David Pruette was a typical college student until the unthinkable happened. During class at University of North Carolina at Greensboro, he suddenly lost consciousness, unaware of the frantic attempts to save him over the next several days. At 19 years old, he had experienced his first cardiac arrest.

“Afterwards, I was told a lot of things happened to me,” recalls David, who was later told he was the fourth patient and the youngest at The Moses H. Cone Memorial Hospital to be “put on ice” and placed in a medically induced coma using a new cardiac standard of care.  

“They told me if [they hadn’t taken these measures] I would have a lot of brain damage…It saved my life,” David emotionally shares.

Like many college students, David was stressed about exams and a paper. He recalls his father lightheartedly saying it wouldn’t kill him to finish his paper early. Heeding his father’s advice, he arrived to English class with his completed paper in hand. However, when fellow students realized he was not sleeping through class but turning blue, they called for help.

Initially, David spent about a week in the intensive care cardiac unit at Moses Cone Hospital. Once he was brought out of the coma, he says it took several days for him to realize the severity of his situation.

“When I woke up and saw my grandmother and uncle, I knew my condition was dire,” says David, whose parents came from California to be with him.

In the first few days of his recovery, he recalls experiencing temporary short-term memory loss: “I kept watching the same television programs and asking the same questions over and over again.”

Released on Easter, David left for home with an implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD) under the care of Gregg Taylor, MD, a Cone Health Medical Group cardiologist. In the following months, Dr. Taylor, who specializes in cardiac electrophysiology, addressed two more cardiac episodes moderated by David’s defibrillator and medications.

“When my heart flutters really fast and stops, the defibrillator reboots it,” explains David who recalls being the youngest patient in Dr. Taylor’s waiting room.

A year later, after learning about a family member’s health condition, David was diagnosed with Brugada syndrome, a genetic disorder that causes abnormal electrical activity in the heart. Since that time, he has experienced no major cardiac events.

A self-described drifter in college who suffered from panic attacks after his first cardiac arrest, David credits Cone Health with saving him from “the brink of death” and helping him reboot his life.

David Pruette

David Pruette (left) with his wife Jessica (right) and Hank.

“My life would have never gotten to this point if it had not been…[for] the people of Moses Cone Hospital,” says Pruette. “At 19, I knocked on death’s door. I never imagined life being full of joy and happiness as it is now.”

After moving to Raleigh in 2013, David married Jessica, a speech-language pathologist. Not only does Jessica appreciate his weird jokes, but she is calm and level-headed, especially during important moments…like when his defibrillator beeps. The couple welcomed Hank, their first child, in November 2018.

“With Jessica and Hank, I feel like I have come full circle,” concludes David, a deputy registrar of deeds, who has the honor of officially recording others’ big life moments. “There are no words good enough to tell you how grateful I am to be here.”

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