Rep. Becky Carney recounts her 2009 medical scare. (Screenshot from NCGA feed)
“I believe I was saved for many reasons, unknown to me.”
It has been 14 years since Representative Becky Carney went into cardiac arrest at her legislative desk.
Not a year goes by that she doesn’t think about the ordeal that could have ended very differently for the Mecklenburg County Democrat.
“My colleague on the phone heard me say, ‘What is happening?’ I don’t remember saying that. But that was at the moment I’ve been told medically that that was when my heart was racing off the chart to the point that it stopped.”
Carney’s quick-thinking legislative assistant hit a panic button in the office, began screaming in the legislative courtyard that she needed medical help, and then they got very, very lucky.
A lobbyist at a late afternoon insurance committee meeting was the first to respond.
“He came in, picked me up, laid me out on my desk and started the CPR,” Carney recounted last week on the House floor.
“Then the Capitol Police arrived and behind them was Dr. England, Representative England. [That] they were there was a blessing.”
The police that responded had just received CPR training. A week before, it’s unlikely they could have assisted Carney.
The building’s defibrillator, a gift from Carney’s freshmen class of lawmakers, helped restart her heart.
“That was another miracle step, it’s just such a story that could affect anyone in this building.”
The 78-year-old Carney shared the story unknown to many of her younger colleagues as lawmakers were considering House Bill 852 last week.
The bill, named in her honor, would require automatic external defibrillators (AEDs) be placed in all North Carolina public schools with training for school personnel.
“This bill allocates $9.2 million for the 23-24 fiscal year from the American Rescue Plan Act Temporary Savings Fund — funds we already have — to DPI, to be allocated to governing bodies of public school units on a first-come, first-served basis,” said Rep. Cynthia Ball (D-Wake) in explaining the bill she has shepherded through this session.
Ball’s bill will ensure that all of public schools have an AED accessible in the main buildings and importantly in their athletic facilities, and that responsible individuals are appropriately trained to administer them.
Earlier this year in Ball’s home district, a 17-year-old cheerleader went into cardiac arrest during a competition at Raleigh’s Broughton High School.
Keianna Joe’s mother saw her child, suddenly unresponsive and knew exactly what to do.
“Andrea Joe, with medical training and at the event, as she always was for her daughter, jumped into action performing CPR until an AED could be located,” Rep. Ball recounted. “She shocked her daughter’s heart back to beating.”
Like Carney, the AED and a quick medical response saved Keianna Joe’s life.
It’s estimated 356,000 people experience sudden cardiac arrest each year in our country. Roughly 7% of those individuals are younger than 18. Sudden cardiac arrest is also the number one cause of death for student athletes.
With bystanders who are trained in performing CPR and using AEDs immediately, survival rates increase by 74%, according to Rep. Ball.
After Rep. Carney survived her heart attack in 2009, the General Assembly passed a bill that required CPR training for high school graduation.
This bill is viewed as a second critical piece.
Rep. Marvin Lucas urged his colleagues to set aside any partisan rancor of the session and approve the $9 million earmark for AED funding in North Carolina’s public schools.
“We know that sometimes there are folk who are against apple pie or even Mother Teresa, but I would suggest to you, that we hope that you would be unanimous in this vote.”
House Bill 852 passed with 113 votes in favor, none in opposition. It moves now to the Senate.
“I know my story is to be told. I’m not the first, I’m not the only one, and I won’t be the last for this to happen to,” said a grateful Carney.
Looking down from the House gallery was Officer Willie Morris, one of the officers who responded 14 years ago saving Rep. Carney’s life.
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