STRONGSVILLE, Ohio (WJW) — A retired maintenance worker is counting his blessings, and thanking his wife, after he experienced a sudden cardiac arrest last year.

Paul Hamm, 67, is well known for being handy and dependable, but on Sept. 4, 2022, Paul was the one who needed a little help.

“The night before I had real bad heartburn in my chest,” Paul recalled.

He took some antacids and slept off his worries. The next morning, he and his wife Sue went to the First Baptist Church of Strongsville for service. That’s where things went wrong.

“I got this hot flash. I thought maybe someone turned the A/C off or something,” Paul said. “I’m a trustee here, so I’m always checking things. I turn around and look at the thermostat and nobody was back there, and I was like ‘Huh?’ I turned back around and looked at the preacher and everything goes black. I just blacked out.”

Paul experienced a sudden cardiac arrest brought on by a STEMI heart attack — or ST-elevated myocardial infarction.

“He stopped breathing. We checked, there was no pulse,” Sue said. “So, for a split second — and I know it was a split second — I thought, ‘I might lose my husband today.’” 

Every year, more than 350,000 Americans suffer cardiac arrest outside of a hospital setting. Nearly 90% of those people die, according to statistics from the American Heart Association and the Sudden Cardiac Arrest Foundation. Luckily for Paul, he had an angel on his side — one that knows how to use an Automated External Defibrillator (AED).

“I’m telling you, I know it was God, but I just heard in my head, ‘Get going.’ I was like, ‘Oh my gosh,’” Sue said. “I ripped up his shirt and started the CPR, and I yelled for someone to get the AED machine.”

October is Sudden Cardiac Arrest Awareness Month.

University Hospitals Harrington Heart & Vascular Institute Interventional Cardiologist Dr. Farshad Forouzandeh said immediate CPR is extremely important for anyone experiencing a sudden cardiac arrest, to ensure blood continues to flow to the brain.

“It has been shown in studies that two times, to three times CPR increases the chance of people surviving from sudden cardiac death,” Forouzandeh said.

He also said having an AED on site is critical to saving lives.

“Having an AED, and also very importantly to know where it is located, because at the time of stress is not the time to start looking around and try to find something and lose those very critical moments,” he said.

Sue is a retired nurse who knew exactly what to do.

“I shocked him once and within a second he took a deep breath, and he came back,” Sue said.

Paul received treatment at Southwest General Hospital in partnership with University Hospitals where Dr. Forouzandeh performed a catheterization and placed a stent to address the blockage impeding blood flow to his heart.

Within a few daysz, Paul was back at home and on the road to recovery and being helpful again at the church where his life was saved by his wife of 40 years.

“Thank you,” Paul said. “I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for her.”

Paul’s best advice for others is to pay attention to the signs and get checked out if something feels off.

Sue is set to receive a Citizen’s Award from the City of Strongsville for her life-saving actions. But she’s just happy her husband is still alive.