DAVIE, Fla. – Sudden cardiac arrest is the leading cause of death in the United States, taking the lives of more than 350,000 Americans each year and it can happen to people of all ages with no signs of heart disease.
“It was two years ago, the fall of 2017,” Gerald Kleynhans said, talking about his experience.
Kleynhans was walking into his office in West Pembroke Pines when he suddenly dropped to the floor.
“One of my workers was behind me and he said I fell with my eyes open," Kleynhans said. “They thought I was joking around and one of the guys kicked me to see if I was functional. After two to three minutes they went into a panic stage and called 911.”
Minutes passed with the clock ticking on his chances of survival.
“By the time the paramedics and firemen got there, they said I was 11 minutes without oxygen in a condition that they considered me deceased,” Kleynhans said.
Cardiologist Dr. Adam Splaver said the majority of people who suffer sudden cardiac arrest don’t survive.
“He’s a walking miracle,” Splaver said.
Kleynhans was subsequently diagnosed with a heart rhythm disturbance called ventricle fibrillation, which ultimately made him a candidate for an internal defibrillator, also known as a pacemaker.
“He had no precursor that we would have known but in other patients that have a low heart pumping function," Splaver said. "These are the people we target and say ‘hey, let’s put this device in because it may save your life.’”
Up to 99 percent of people who suffer sudden cardiac arrest either die or are left with residual physical deficits or brain damage, which is why Kleynhans is counting his blessings.
He expressed gratitude for the emergency professionals and medical experts who saved his life.
“I see the world differently. I’m blessed to see the sun come up and the sun go down," Kleynhans said. "I’m blessed to see my wife, I’m blessed to be able to talk to my son Colton.”