It started as a normal Saturday morning for Jemma. Kissing her partner Andy and 18 month old daughter Aria goodbye, she went to work for the first class of the first day of term, teaching little three and four year olds how to dance.
Just minutes into her class, Jemma collapsed to the floor.
Seeing the children being shepherded out of the class, her best friend Taryn rushed to her side and quickly realised Jemma needed CPR, which she’d trained for just two weeks’ earlier.
Fellow dance instructor Tanaye, joined to help Taryn with compressions. With St John’s Ambulance the phone guiding them on the phone, the two women continued compressions, standing back only when the paramedics defibrillated Jemma to start her heart.
In hospital, social workers prepared her partner Andy and her mum for the worst.
Jemma was in an induced coma for two nights with her family present when doctors revived her; no-one knowing whether she’d suffered major brain damage from lack of oxygen.
Her family cried with relief when she woke and named everyone in the room.
Jemma was diagnosed with a heart disorder, Long QT Syndrome, and Graves Disease – which combined led to her heart not being able to cope and eventually just stop.
Lifechanging surgery followed, and she now has a defibrillator that will start her heart in case it ever stops again.
Prior to the surgery, a woman showed Jemma her own defibrillator and helped give her confidence that she would be able to live a good life again. This has inspired Jemma to support the work of Heart Foundation WA in this year’s HBF Run, she eventually hopes to help others whose lives have been turned upside down from heart disease.
Only twelve nights later, Jemma walked out of hospital alive. Later, the treating Emergency Department doctor said he couldn’t believe she survived and medical staff are continually telling her that she wouldn’t be alive without her friend’s CPR.
Jemma’s message to everyone is “Get your first aid certificate, please, I urge you. I walked into the room that day and didn’t have a clue I had anything wrong with me. It saved my life. That is the ultimate gift to give someone.”