Mount Pleasant woman saved by wearable defibrillator

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IOWA CITY, Iowa (KCRG-TV9) -- Annamarie Fracaro of Mount Pleasant woman says she's lucky to be alive after suddenly going into cardiac arrest earlier this year. She was wearing a vest that jump-started her heart. Fracaro was wearing one when her heart unexpectedly stopped.

It's called "LifeVest," made by a company called Zoll Medical Corporation. Fracaro's doctors at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics prescribed it to her after a viral infection caused her heart to become enlarged, causing it to have diminished pumping function. Because of that, Fracaro was at risk of sudden death.

"It was skipping beats, or it'd go like two or three beats and then it wouldn't beat at all for a couple beats, and then it'd start beating again," Fracaro told us on Thursday.

Doctors at UIHC's Heart and Vascular Center fitted Fracaro with a LifeVest as a safeguard, until she could receive a more permanent implantable defibrillator. She was at work one day in March and went outside to get her phone from her car. That's when the LifeVest lived up to its name.

"I got out of the car, and I just felt really funny. I remember leaning against the car with my head and then I just blacked out," Fracaro told us. Her heart had stopped. "It saved my life. They told me if I wouldn't have had that vest on when I was in the parking lot, I would have died."

Fracaro no longer has to wear the LifeVest, since she now has a permanent implant. But Dr. Denice Hodgson-Zingman said these temporary vests have been gaining in popularity, as the medical community sees an increasing number of patients who benefit from implants.

"There's always a period of time where we're trying to figure out what's going on with the patient, and those are the times usually that a LifeVest is appropriate, because we want to protect those people, but we don't want to subject them to an implanted medical device that they may not need," Dr. Zingman explained.

Fracaro is glad she doesn't have to wear the vest anymore. But she's thankful she had it on when she did.

"It's a life-saver," Fracaro said. "I don't know what I would have done without it."