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Life-Saving Love

January 31, 2012, 6:13 PM by Casey Wonnenberg

Life-Saving Love
A Lincoln County Sheriff Chief Deputy is used to helping save lives, but he's now thankful to his wife for saving his own life.

Jim Zick had finished snowblowing when he had a heart attack and went into cardiac arrest just over a week ago.

Jim and Karla Zick say they feel like teenage lovebirds, cuddling and watching movies together, but the two have actually been married for 16 years.

"We have somewhat different personalities. I'm more of a thinker. Karla is the more emotional one," Jim said.

Considering Jim has been in law enforcement for more than two decades, it's only fitting. But lately, the couple's roles have switched.

"You know what? It's a bit too deep to think about," Jim said.

"When I was in his room, if I wanted to cry, I would tell myself, 'Jim would not like it if I was crying. He would want me to take care of business,'" Karla said.

You see Jim has been in the hospital recovering after a heart attack, but he probably wouldn't even be here if it wasn't for his wife. Karla performed CPR on Jim as soon as she realized something was wrong.

"My emotion was to keep him alive. That meant shaking him for that moment or yelling into his ear or breathing into his mouth. It was all about keeping him alive," Karla said.

"When he went down, the thing that saved him and kept his brain in tact were the circulations, so the CPR was probably the thing that brought the blood to the brain the quickest," Sanford Cardiac Electrophysiologist Dr. Scott Pham said.

While a heart attack is always serious, doctors say the chances of surviving a heart attack like Jim had are even lower.

"Usually a person dies, and the chance of survival in somebody with cardiac arrest is less than 5 percent," Pham said.

Jim now has a defibrillator implanted near his heart, he's on medication and will have to have double bypass surgery soon. But he knows through it all one thing is for sure; his wife will be by his side.

"The biggest thing to me was when I saw Karla come into a room, I knew somebody was on my side. It's not to say anything bad about the doctors or nurses because we became such close friends, but I knew that when Karla came in, that was mine," Jim said.

Jim's wedding ring is not around his finger, but instead close to his wife's heart. The two say they were thinking about renewing their wedding vows, but this whole experience has renewed their love for each other.

"The deepest thing is it brought Karla and I so much closer. It's on a level of understanding that she knows more about me than I always gave her credit for," Jim said.

"Not even a week ago the pastor and us were talking, and he said do you see yourself growing old with Jim, and I said I've never thought that far ahead, and when all this happened, I said to Jim, 'I see myself growing old with you.' I do too," Karla said.

Karla was not CPR certified but said she had seen people do it. Now she plans on getting her certification.

Take Heart South Dakota
American Heart Association

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