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‘Healing Heart’: Tallahassee native who went into cardiac arrest shares story of survival and love

Published: Feb. 11, 2021 at 7:36 PM EST
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) - According to the American Heart Association, there are 356,000 cases of out-of-hospital cardiac arrest every year. That means about 1,000 times per day or 42 times an hour, someone’s heart suddenly stops working.

And the scariest part is only 10% of those people survive; however, CPR can drastically improve a person’s chances.

This Heart Month, WCTV is updating one story of survival, which is now also a love story, just in time for Valentine’s Day.

“This is Brittany’s bridal shower invitation that I made,” Vicki Williams, Brittany’s mom, said.

A proud mom, best friends, great food and present, after present, after present — Bride-to-be Brittany Williams has it pretty darn good.

“I’m so excited that I get to celebrate with them,” Brittany said.

In less than a month, she’ll marry the love of her life just several years after their Rom-Com like first encounter.

“We actually met at the cafeteria, at the salad bar,” Brittany says.

It was an amazing moment she thought might never happen, because of the horrific one that did.

“I’ve always thought about that because my goal in life was to get married, have a family, and when that all happened I was really scared and nervous because I didn’t know if I would ever meet my future husband, or who would be understanding of my heart condition,” Brittany says.

Six years earlier, a perfectly healthy Brittany went into cardiac arrest.

“I just remember it being black, it was cold, and all I could hear was my mom and dad speaking to me,” Brittany said in a 2018 interview with WCTV’s Ben Kaplan.

“Just pleading, Brittany, don’t leave us, we love you, stay with us,” Vicki told WCTV in 2018.

She was with her family at an FSU bar in New York City, ready to watch the ‘Noles play on TV when it happened.

Thankfully, Dr. Nick Farber was there too.

“We weren’t sitting, but we were there for 10 minutes when we heard a call at the door saying ‘Is there a doctor in the house?’” Dr. Farber said.

The fellow Florida State University graduate was doing his residency in Brooklyn at the time. He was also at the bar to watch the game when he was one of two doctors called into action.

“I knelt beside her and didn’t feel a pulse and I asked the person across from me if he did, and he said no, and they said should we start CPR, and if you have to ask, then the answer is yes,” Dr. Farber said.

That rapid response is a big reason why Brittany is alive today. It’s also how a lifelong friendship with the family was forged.

“Since then we’ve just kind of kept in touch,” Dr. Farber said.

Then, a few years later, the connection grew closer when the retina surgeon and his wife moved back to Tallahassee.

“They were one of the first visitors we had when we moved back,” Dr. Farber said.

“He works where my dad gets his eyes checked and it’s such a small world,” Brittany says.

And of course, after Brittany got engaged, Nick was invited to be there for her big day.

And if he can do so safely, Dr. Farber, now a father himself, will watch as Brittany’s parents see their daughter fulfill a lifelong dream.

“Six years ago, she laid on a floor in NYC in a restaurant without a pulse. She was gone,” Vicki said. “And because they kept her heart going until paramedics got there, we’re seeing her walk down the aisle, and it’s going to be just, the best day ever.”

A heart once broken is now healthy, full of life and love.

Brittany was diagnosed with Long QT syndrome, which is a genetic disorder that increases the risk of an irregular heartbeat. She’ll live with a defibrillator and pacemaker for the rest of her life, but says she passed her last exam with flying colors.

Brittany and her mom are strong proponents of Florida House Bill 157 — which would require school districts to provide training in CPR to students in high school.

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