It was a typical Tuesday morning when RaeAnn Herrera received the phone call she will never forget.
“I didn’t recognize the number but I picked it up anyhow,” RaeAnn said.
A fireman on the other line asked for her husband’s medical information, saying Isaac had been involved in an accident.
RaeAnn, 47, recalls giving the man the information, not aware of her husband’s critical condition until he said she better get to the hospital fast.
“I knew not to ask him if he was alive so I carefully asked him if he was conscious,” RaeAnn said.
The answer was no.
On Nov. 6, 2012, Isaac was driving his work truck when lost control on Euclid Avenue near Naranja Street in San Diego.
He had gone into sudden cardiac arrest.
The first responding officer found Isaac slumped over his steering wheel with no pulse and began CPR.
Isaac was driving to a jobsite downtown before the incident.
“I dispatched employees at 6:30 (a.m.) and I told them to get out there and vote,” Isaac said. “About 8 a.m., as I was approaching Euclid Avenue, I should have made a right to get on the 94 west. But instead I made a left turn.”
Isaac said he doesn’t recall the events that took place after that.
“There was a woman sitting outside her home in a wheelchair,” RaeAnn said. “She saw him veer over and hit the cars so immediately she called 911 and within two minutes a police officer came.”
A few minutes later the paramedics arrived.
Isaac was rushed to Paradise Valley Hospital in National City, intubated, sedated and placed in a hypothermic coma to preserve his organs.
“We know that they defibrillated him eight times on the scene,” RaeAnn said. “He flatlined again in the emergency room. Someone was working on him for 20 minutes to bring him back.”
Isaac received an angiogram and had surgery to have a pace maker put in to detect arrhythmia.
“They said in order to test the device they’d have to stop his heart and let the device automatically to bring him back,” RaeAnn said.
Doctors told RaeAnn they were unsure whether there would be any neurological damage.
“I need you to know that we’re Christians and we believe in miracles,” she told them.
One week later Isaac was taken off the ventilator.
RaeAnn said the first three days was like the movie “50 First Dates.”
“He lost the memory of the week before the accident … some people would tell him certain things,” she said.
“Sometimes he’d remember and sometimes he wouldn’t.”
When Isaac woke up, RaeAnn was standing over him and explained what happened.
“The first question I asked them was what happened and what I can do to prevent this,” he said.
“Ninety percent of people who suffer sudden cardiac arrest die and the remaining 10 percent have neurological damage,” RaeAnn was told. “We were told that people don’t survive this… Every doctor and cardiologist told him he had an angel looking over him.”
Isaac never did find out why he went into cardiac arrest.
Sharp Grossmont Hospital interventional cardiologist Dr. Sharon Sadeghinia said a person can have three different things wrong with their heart, all that lead to sudden cardiac death.
“Sudden cardiac arrest means when the heart stops within seconds,” she said.
Usually, sudden cardiac arrest is caused by blockage, what Sadeghinia calls a plumbing problem caused by ischemia — a restriction in blood supply to tissues causing a shortage of oxygen, according to Sadeghinia.
Some patients have metabolic syndrome, a combination of risk factors, the top five of which include high blood pressure and cholesterol, diabetes, obesity and smoking.
“Number one is that people need to tell their family about their health,” Sadeghinia said. Despite knowing risk factors, sudden cardiac arrest can occur in anyone at any age.
“You don’t necessarily have any symptoms,” Sadeghinia said. “They are perfectly fine and all of a sudden they drop dead.”
Isaac said that prior to the incident he was in great health.
“Every September right around my birthday I get a physical and all my blood work came out great,” he said.
Isaac went through physical, occupational and speech therapy while he was in the hospital and since returning has recovered well.
“I don’t know why this happened to me,” Isaac said. “I know that God has used every single person involved and … I just want people to know that miracles are still happening and that God is a great God.”
RaeAnn said the accident has forever changed their lives.
“I think we really take the time to appreciate family so much more,” she said. “What matters now is that every day is amazing because you’re alive.”
RaeAnn said she reminds Isaac to tell people what happened so they can be better prepared.
“Because that bystander saw him and called 911, the officers responded within two minutes and that saved his life,” she said.
Sadeghinia said it’s critical for the public to know CPR.
“Knowledge is power,” she said. “If you can save a life with some simple maneuver, why would anybody hold back?”