'Life vest' designed to save heart attack victims

Imagine being home alone and your heart stops. It would typically lead to sudden death, however, a father of triplets from Houston is alive today because his doctor at Memorial Hermann suggested he use something called a life vest. 

James Stone cherishes life today, more than ever, after the life vest did just that -- save his life.

"It means everything," says Stone. "I wouldn't be here if it wasn't! It gives me a chance to watch my kids grow up and do things and had I not had it, I wouldn't be here,"  

When James became sick only six months earlier, he thought he had just caught a stomach virus from his children. 

"I didn't have the typical elephant on the chance -- I had nausea and soreness in my chest, but I tacked it up to be from vomiting," explains Stone. The symptoms didn't go away, so two days later, he rushed to the Memorial Hermann Memorial City emergency room. 

"It was found by EKG and blood work that he had been suffering from a heart attack or myocardial infarction," says Dr. Hal Condara, an interventional cardiologist, who helped treat Stone at Memorial Hermann. "Since he was still having symptoms, we went straight to the Cath Lab with him." 

After Stone underwent a procedure to place a stint in his coronary artery, his doctor sent him home with a special tool, called a life vest, just in case he had another heart attack. Luckily, Stone wore this night and day, except when bathing. Eight days after he left the hospital, the life vest had to go into action! 

"I felt a strange sensation start at my feet and come up my body and the control box said, 'Punch the two buttons on the vest.' I couldn't make it and passed out. Several minutes later, I woke up, and the life vest said, 'Treatment given, call your doctor,'" explains Stone. He was admitted to the hospital again, where he underwent a procedure to get a permanent defibrillator implanted in his upper chest. His wife is beyond thankful with the results. 

"It's amazing! Without the life vest, he wouldn't be here today," says James' wife Pam. "The kiddos wouldn't have a dad around to celebrate their eighth birthday, so it's a blessing and life saver and we're very glad that it was on our side." 

While the life vest is prescription-only, it's important to know that if you are having an extreme medical event or saw someone having that problem, many public places have an automated external defibrillator, well known as an AED. A lot of churches, hotels, and malls have them. It became law in 2007 that every high school in Texas have at least one AED. The machine audibly walks you through step-by-step how to save a life. 

Dr. Condara wants you to understand the warning signs of a heart attack, so that you can quickly get treatment, which betters your chances of saving your live.

"It might be classic with tight chest pressure with radiation of that discomfort to the left shoulder, it could be sense of heaviness, sense of discomfort between shoulder blades in the back, it can be sharp, dull, radiating up into the jaw," says Dr. Condara. He goes on to say that it could just be an ache in the elbows, overwhelming fatigue, nausea, shortness of breath, or sweating for no reason.

James wants to remain healthy for his family, so he's making lifestyle changes by eating a healthier diet and exercising.  His doctor says he's physically doing well. 

"It is a blessing," says Pam with a smile. "A lot of people say that's a happy ending but we like to think of it as a happy beginning. We had a second chance."