His heart stopped in front of the United States Capitol. A congresswoman asked for help.

It was a Wednesday morning last October and it was still dark when Delya Sommerville went out for a run with her running club.

They would usually go out two to three times a week in the Capitol Hill area of ​​Washington, DC and run for about an hour. On this day the focus was on the hills.

“I don’t feel very strong today,” she told one of her runner friends.

Before long, Delya was left behind. She knew the way and went at her own pace. As she approached the south barricade of the US Capitol building, Delya fainted.
Moments later, U.S. Representative Vicky Hartzler of Missouri – who happened to be out on her own morning jog – spotted Delya on the sidewalk. She called the US Capitol Police.
Rescuers found Delya not breathing and without a pulse. She had a cardiac arrest.
Kevin Grebeck, a canine unit technician, applied chest compressions while Officer Mikayla Brower administered an automated external defibrillator, or AED. The device helped restore Delya’s heartbeat.
Soon after, the DC fire department and EMS crews arrived. They transferred Delya to a hospital that specializes in treating heart patients.
At about 6:45 am, just before his alarm went off, Patrick Sommerville was awakened by a call.
The caller identified himself as Sgt. Corey Rogers with the Capitol Police.
“I need to let you know that your wife was found not breathing on the grounds of the United States Capitol,” he said. “She was revived and was taken to the hospital.”
He looked professional, but then added a warmer note that Patrick will always appreciate: “A very experienced rescue officer said she was rescued quickly enough and will survive.”
At the hospital, Patrick found Delya intubated and hooked up to several machines. Doctors asked him about his cardiac history.
All he could say was that she had passed out while running five months earlier. Doctors suspected it was caused by dehydration. However, Delya decided to have a full heart checkup. Her cholesterol was elevated, but no heart problems were detected. She started taking cholesterol-lowering statins and returned to running in late July. She had no other problems. Yet.
Delya spent two nights in intensive care before regaining consciousness. Doctors warned Patrick that the loss of oxygen could affect her cognitive abilities.
When she woke up, Delya didn’t remember anything about the day. She insisted that she wasn’t running away.
Patrick asked if she knew her name and where she lived.
“I know what my name is, so stop asking me,” she said, using an exasperated tone that let Patrick know his cognitive skills were as sharp as ever.
Doctors discovered that Delya had a condition called three-vessel coronary disease. As the name implies, this means that the three main arteries of the heart are blocked with plaque. Because of this, running irritated his heart muscle, resulting in cardiac arrest.
Delya was told that she would need coronary artery bypass surgery.
She struggled to process the news. She went from being a seemingly healthy runner to needing open-heart surgery.
The surgery went well. Before leaving the hospital, Delya was given a jacket with an external defibrillator. Doctors told her it was like a life jacket, just in case.
“That was the most challenging part because we thought we were out of the woods,” said Patrick. “If they’re doing that, they’re not entirely confident that her heart wouldn’t just shut down.”
For a month, Patrick made sure Delya was never alone. At night, he woke up every 20 minutes to make sure she was breathing.
After two months, the doctors said she no longer needed to wear the brace.
Last December, the Sommervilles attended an event honoring Delya’s first responders.
“You are my heroes,” she said during the ceremony. “We will never be able to thank you enough.”
In early January, Delya began cardiac rehabilitation.

“Being in a safe and monitored area and surrounded by professionals when I started to push myself was key for me,” she said. “The mental part of getting back to working out was huge.”
Now, just over a year after her cardiac arrest, Delya is comfortable exercising in a controlled environment, like a gym, where she runs on a treadmill.
“Physically I feel fine, but I worry about every contraction in my body,” she said. “That’s difficult because you don’t know if it’s physical or mental.”
Patrick also feels nervous at times.
“Anything that raises her heart rate, even anxiety, I start to get nervous,” he said.
The family recently moved to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia for Patrick’s job, a move that Delya signed off on.
Even from afar, Delya will continue her newfound passion – promoting and advocating for bystander CPR, as well as raising awareness of women’s heart conditions.
“Usually when women have a cardiac event, it’s a shock,” she said. “There needs to be more research and money for women. I have the opportunity to advocate for policy. I’m a real-life role model.”

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His heart stopped in front of the United States Capitol. A congresswoman asked for help.

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