How to save yourself from a heart attack while driving

By Elizabeth Temple - bio | email

LAKE CHARLES, LA (KPLC) -  Imagine driving in your car and the next minute waking up in a hospital bed, two days have gone by. Pete Caldarera had a heart attack and when he woke up doctors told him: "You were dead. I said 'huh? Really?' they said yeah you had died," said Caldarera.

Dr. Fernando Ruiz says all he had to do to buy himself some time to call 911 is cough.

"Try to cough very strongly several times," explained Ruiz, "sometimes it may break up the bad rhythm and make the heart go back to the original rhythm at least for a while."

It buys you a couple minutes at most, but it may give you time to stop a car or call 911. Caldarera luckily stopped his own car, but in the middle of a intersection he was not safe. Nurse Anna Naquin saw his car and stopped to see if everything was alright.

"He was sitting in the middle of the road like he had just slumped over and fallen asleep," said Naquin, "so I pulled over and found out he was not breathing and he did not have a pulse."

Caldarera's heart attack was a complete surprise to him and his family. He had no family history of heart disease, and had not had a checkup for years. Naquin saved his life by doing CPR until the paramedics arrived, but later she had to give him a serious warning while he recovered. Caldarera says he was not listening to doctors and Naquin set him straight, saying, "I didn't save your life for no reason."

All told, he spent 39 days in the hospital recovering from his almost fatal heart attack.

"And I haven't had a cigarette since," exclaimed Caldarera, "heck of a way to quit smoking but it worked."

The coughing technique will work for everyone experiencing irregular rhythms, but Naquin says you should call 911 also because it is just a temporary fix.

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