Gabby McManus's Why

This time, Gabby, age 46 of St. Mary’s County, Maryland, took four aspirin. She called her husband, Bill, who was out of town, and he urged her to call an ambulance. Instead, she took a shower, got dressed and decided to have her college-age son, Brett Harman, drive her to the nearest hospital, which was 30 minutes away. “Everything just felt heavy. I felt a little disoriented,” Gabby said. As they drove through rural southern Maryland, a sense of urgency set in. “I said, ‘Hurry!’” As Gabby made her way into the emergency room, she felt more disoriented. “As I was walking through the door, I said, ‘I’m not going to make it,’” she recalled. Gabby collapsed, and medical workers had to shock her heart.

“I just remember waking up screaming that I wanted my mom,” she said. Doctors and nurses explained to her that she’d had a massive heart attack. And it wasn’t over: Over the next several hours, her heart stopped 14 times. “I didn’t know what was going on, but I knew I was dying,” she said.