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Wellington woman’s post-wedding shock

Amanda Simkin's heart decided to stop working three weeks after her wedding day. When the 26-year-old emerged dazed from a coma three days later, she didn't even recognise her new husband.

Amanda Simkin’s heart decided to stop working three weeks after her wedding day.

When the 26-year-old emerged dazed from a coma three days later, she didn’t even recognise her new husband.

“I had my cardiac arrest on a Sunday afternoon on February 20, 2000 - the only reason I still remember the date is because it was my husband Andrew’s 21st birthday.”

On that life-changing afternoon, she was paddling surf boats at the Titahi Bay Surf Life Saving Club.

“We were doing sets and during one of those sets I believe I fainted and fell back in the boat.”

The crew weren’t sure what had happened but thought Amanda had suffered a seizure.

“They realised fairly quickly that I was out and that my heart rate couldn’t be taken. They flagged down help, paddled the boat to shore, called an ambulance and started CPR.”

As soon as the ambulance crew arrived they used a defibrillator, which delivered a sudden dose of electrical energy to Amanda’s heart.

“I understand it took four times to get my heart back into a normal rhythm, at which point I was then in a coma so have no recollection of these events.”

What’s frightening is that when Amanda came out of her coma she had only a three-second memory for two days.

“I didn't even know my husband who I had married three weeks earlier.”

She was flown by air ambulance to Greenlane Hospital to have an implanted cardiac defibrillator inserted.

Amanda’s heart is fine now but she gets it checked regularly.

“I have some mild memory issues at times that I've had to deal with. Taking beta blockers made me tired, especially at first, but I've managed to push past that now.”

There has been lots of testing but no cause has been found for her cardiac arrest.

Every year, the Heart Foundation invests about $2 million into heart research in New Zealand. We hope this research will one day help stop people like Amanda from experiencing such traumatic events, or at least help them understand why they happened.

“As gene testing advances we may find something down the track,” Amanda says.

The unusual event has given her a renewed love for life and she has gone on to have three beautiful daughters with Andrew.

“I have had a full recovery but have also made a complete 180 in the way I live life. I don't waste it drinking myself silly and burdening my body with hard living anymore.”

She hasn't let the cardiac arrest hold her back in any area of life.

“I am very aware that life is not always 85 years long and that you have to seize the day you have. It's made me a lot less fearful of making big decisions. I value life a lot more and I'm determined to make the most of it.”

The Heart Foundation would like to warmly thank Amanda for sharing her story in support of our Go Red for Women campaign this month.