PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) – As February 3 marks National Wear Red Day, to raise awareness about heart disease, a Vancouver woman is sharing her cardiac arrest experience as a teen — emphasizing the importance of knowing CPR.

In 2023, when Heidi Stewart was 18 years old, she had sudden cardiac arrest — collapsing in the hallway at Evergreen High School. According to Stweart, she was without a heartbeat for 10 minutes.

Cardiac arrest means the heart stops beating, resulting in a loss of blood flow to the brain and organs, Dr. Nandita Gupta, associate chief medical officer at OHSU Hillsboro Medical Center, explained.

Staff members started CPR and administered three automated external defibrillator shocks to save her. Stewart said tests later revealed that she has arrhythmogenic right ventricular dysplasia, a rare heart condition that occurs when tissue in the right ventricle dies and is replaced with scar tissue, according to the American Heart Association, which can cause arrhythmias.

Stewart has since become AED and CPR certified and says she is grateful to the staff who administered CPR and saved her life.

“I’m in awe every day and I truly think it’s miraculous to know that they chose to do that, to pay out of pocket, to go out of their way to make sure they knew how to save a life,” Stewart said.

In honor of National Wear Red Day, Stewart and Gupta are raising awareness about heart disease and the importance for everyone to learn CPR.

Heart disease is the number one killer of men and women in the United States and disproportionally impacts women, who are often underdiagnosed and underrepresented in clinical trials, according to Gupta.

“If you are in a position where you can deliver CPR, you can save lives,” Gupta said. “According to the American Heart Association, 350,000 people die of out-of-hospital cardiac arrest. If you are able to deliver CPR, [you can] improve the survivor’s chances by two to three times.”

Gupta highlighted resources for others to learn CPR, including a 90-second CPR video tutorial and CPR classes at local community colleges and health care organizations.

During American Heart Month, the American Heart Association is challenging households to have at least one family member who knows how to administer hands-only CPR.