Kristin Toussing was 29 years old when she went into cardiac arrest at home. A firefighter using an AED saved her life.
LAWRENCE, Indiana — “Without the AED, my heart rhythm wouldn’t have been restored. It made all the difference,” said Kristin Toussing, a sudden cardiac arrest survivor.
Kristin and her husband, Justin, have learned to cherish every day with one another and their three kids after a typical September day in 2017 nearly became Kristin’s last.
“I got up and did the mom thing – made breakfast, packed lunches and definitely was noticing a little bit of chest pain,” Kristin said. “But it seemed like it was likely nothing. I took a shower, thought I was going to lay down for a bit. Justin decided to get ready for work and just happened to come back into the bedroom and find me down on the bed.”
At 29 years old, Kristin had gone into cardiac arrest. Off-duty with IMPD at the time, Justin jumped into action, calling 911.
“And I did CPR for six minutes and 30 seconds while on the phone with EMS and while fire was coming. Lawrence Fire Engine 36 came upstairs and did awesome. They brought the AED and got Kristin hooked up. Her heart wasn’t beating at the time and they gave her the shock and were able to get her heartbeat back,” Justin said.
After intensive treatments and 11 days in the hospital, Kristin was able to head home and eventually make a full recovery.
Others aren’t as lucky. Sudden cardiac arrest can be fatal for many.
That AED shock saved Kristin’s life on that day five years ago.
Over the years, law enforcement officers around the state of Indiana have been slowly adding AEDs to their units.
“The more of them we can have in all emergency vehicles, the more likely they’re going to save a life,” said Indiana State Police Sgt. John Perrine.
An AED carried by firefighters saved Kristin Toussing’s life.
Perrine said thanks to donations from Bolt from the Heart, AEDs have been placed in all ISP patrol units – more than 500 of them in units with on- and off-duty officers all around the state.
“We have multiple life saves with these tools that maybe wouldn’t have been done without it. Most recently at the Indianapolis 500, troopers used an AED to revive a gentleman who survived because of that and certainly we’re glad that those troopers were in the right place at the right time with the right tool,” Perrine said.
By having AEDs so accessible, law enforcement says they can get someone lifesaving care in seconds instead of waiting for additional help to arrive.
“We get there sometimes before medics do,” said IMPD Sgt. Genae Cook.
Since 2019, Bolt from the Heart has been working to get AEDs into IMPD units, too.
So far, Cook said more than 170 IMPD vehicles have them. They’re working to slowly get AEDs to all 1,600 officers. It’s a tool that’s critical, Cook said, especially when responding in rural areas.
“What we do in the first several minutes when we’re on scene can either save a person’s life or extend their circumstances so they can get to the hospital and get additional medical treatment that will allow them to survive,” Cook said.
For the Toussings, they now have an AED with them regularly, traveling to work with Justin and at-home, just in case. They say that day changed so much with how they live.
“Yeah, it definitely does,” Kristin said.
Credit: Toussing family
Kristin and Justin Toussing with their sons.
“It’s definitely caused (us) to reevaluate what our priorities are and maybe live life in a different way and be even more thankful for each day,” Justin said.
And feeling grateful for every day their family has shared together since.
Bolt for the Heart puts on a 5K run to raise money to buy more AEDs each year on Thanksgiving. You can learn more or register for the run here.