Two Years On: Surviving Cardiac Arrest and Other Adventures

Amazingly, it’s been a whole two years since I pulled off the most dramatic brunch exit in the history of Manhattan restaurants – collapsing from a cardiac arrest on my way to the loo! As I sit down to reminisce on this wild ride, I can’t help but marvel at how much has changed since that fateful day. So as this milestone approaches, here’s my reflections on the rollercoaster journey through survival, transformation, and the occasional Uno showdown.

Finding Joy in Tiny Moments

Let’s face it, cheating death has a way of putting things into perspective. Nowadays, I find myself appreciating the good things in life with such gusto and emotion like never before. Whether it’s the joy I feel on receiving a thank you WhatsApp from a happy client, the marvel of hearing my 11 year old daughter sing a solo (watch out Beyoncé!), or the competitiveness and hilarity of a family games night (we’re the proud owners of five different versions of Uno!); there are so many reminders that the everyday stuff about life is just bloody marvellous.

Making an Impact, One Hashtag at a Time

Jews don’t like their clouds with silver linings but this tragic event has a big one with my near-death experience sparking the birth of the #slowthefuckdown movement. Amazing to think that the person people often used to refer to as ‘a whirlwind’ has become the accidental poster child for living a more meaningful life. Whether it’s a heartfelt message from a stranger or a chance encounter at an industry event, hearing the ripple effects of this movement remind me that rather than my story is far from a tragedy; in fact there’s real meaning in why I was saved, knowing others (96% of them!) weren’t so lucky.

Relief from the Tyranny of Stress

Prior to my cardiac arrest, I was caught up as most of us are, in the relentless pursuit of validation through status; driven by societal expectations and the relentless pursuit of “more”. However, staring death in the face is a great way to have your priorities realigned and I can honestly say I can’t even remember what I meant when I consider the obsession I had for “winning”; pitches, awards, treble digit growth in our turnover. It’s a popular misconception that when we achieve our “goals” (that job, that title, that salary..) we’ll be happy.  But in reality this kind of relentless quest simply puts our happiness in some kind of imagined future we’ll never actually arrive at. The sheer relief of accepting the ‘now’ – in all its messy glory, means I have freed myself from the suffocating grip of stress and anxiety.

Slowingthefuckdown isn’t easy

Of course, it hasn’t all been sunshine and rainbows. There have been plenty of moments when I’ve had to dig deep and manage my responses; to quieten the fear, FOMO and guilt that threatens to derail my balanced choices. And the imposter syndrome still rears its ugly head now and again, when I think about the fact that the book still isn’t written, the message isn’t spreading fast enough or I haven’t done enough to spread the word about CPR. However…

Managing the Voices

Having said that, one of the unexpected perks of cheating death has been learning to manage my responses to life’s curveballs with more of a Zen-like calmness than I ever dreamed possible. Sure, there are still moments when the negative voices are loud or I feel the stress rising, but I am happy to report that I am largely walking the walk and managing my responses in a much more measured way. Being underpinned with the knowledge that your very existence has beaten very dodgy odds, it’s so much easier to take a breath and remain calm. This has massively reshaped my relationships, especially with my husband and kids.Turns out, staring death in the face has a way of improving empathy and patience. So, here’s to late-night heart-to-hearts, tear-stained pillowcases, and the messy, beautiful chaos of real-life connections.

Navigating the Shadows

Despite my generally positive outlook, I’d be lying if I didn’t acknowledge the shadows that linger in the back of my mind. Managing the scary thoughts that linger post a brush with mortality can be daunting, but by passing the mic over to a more positive voice and leaning on the support of my amazing team, my beautiful friends and loving family, I’ve learned to navigate these shadows, buoyed by the reassurance of my cardiologist “You have the heart of a 20 year old – crack on with life” and the knowledge that my built-in defibrillator means I am actually less likely to die than your average Joe!

Emma 2.0

One of things I say quite often is ‘I’m still me”. But if I am completely honest it’s not quite the me before my cardiac episode – it’s a more measured, less chaotic me. Yes I am still too busy and usually the first to suggest day drinking, but I am rarely the last at the bar and have frequent bouts of JOMO (Joy of missing out) when I’m in bed watching Netflix with the dog when in a parallel universe I’d be ordering Jaegerbombs and booking a 1am slot at Lucky Voice. I’m also much better at prioritising what REALLY matters, which is my family. Working harder to make it home for bath and bedtime, and no longer the mum that never makes it to the gymnastics displays and class assemblies. Because the biggest learning, the one that immediately hit me when I woke up in ICU, was that love is really all that matters.

So, here’s to minimising the stress, embracing the chaos, finding joy in the tiniest of moments, living each day meaningfully and mindfully and spending many many hours playing Uno Extreme with my loved ones.

And, hopefully, helping a few of you to do the same along the way.