Amy Montgomery, 52, is passionate about heart health. Not only is she a cardiac rehabilitation nurse for Hill Country Memorial, Amy has held hands-on CPR classes for local church and community groups. That passion follows her home as well. Amy taught her husband and three children how to recognize a cardiac emergency and properly respond. Little did she know their knowledge would save her own life.

One night last August, Amy’s husband, Erwin, woke to find his wife’s lips blue. She was unconscious and not breathing. Erwin immediately called 911, unlocked the front door, got Amy to the floor and began CPR. “I’m a little bit of a nut. I have always made sure my family knew what to do in an emergency. We would regularly run through ‘codes’ at home, using the dog as our fake patient and practicing chest compressions … who does that?” jokes Amy. “In fact, we practiced CPR as a family just three days before my event.”

Amy had gone into cardiac arrest due to a condition called ventricular fibrillation. Her heart began quivering uncontrollably, which caused it to stop pumping blood to her brain and the rest of her body. Thankfully, EMS personnel responded within minutes and took over her care. They shocked her heart back into rhythm and transported her directly to nearby HCM. “I don’t remember anything, but learned what an amazing job my husband, EMS and everyone at Hill Country Memorial did for me. It’s overwhelming,” says Amy. At the hospital, Amy was quickly stabilized and put on a ventilator so she could be transferred to a larger hospital for high-risk cardiac treatment as routine practice. However, due to the pandemic, all intensive care units at area hospitals were full. Knowing Amy’s situation was critical, hospital physicians and staff responded with high-level support and care. They performed a cardiac catheterization, which confirmed that her heart vessels were not blocked. And they kept her fragile condition stable with medication and breathing assistance as they desperately searched for a transfer location. “Rural hospitals are so important. Without the expertise and care of Hill Country Memorial, I would not have survived. I’m so thankful,” says Amy.

After two days at HCM, Amy was transferred to Austin for advanced cardiac care. Although the root cause of her ventricular fibrillation was never found, doctors implanted a defibrillator that monitors her heart and provides an internal shock if it should ever stop again. Amy has fully recovered. “I am a clear example that no one knows when an emergency will occur. I had no indications that something was wrong. I had no symptoms. I went hiking just days before this happened and felt great,” she says. “This event has been life-changing. God’s handprints are all over it. The love shown to my family and the care I received were beyond words. There is no promise of tomorrow, and I am grateful for each and every day.”