Sonia Calabria who suffered a cardiac arrest at work and was revived with a defibrillator.
Sonia Calabria who suffered a cardiac arrest at work and was revived with a defibrillator.

Mum's saving grace will soon protect every shopper

MOTHER Sonia Calabria, 36, is living life to the full, years after paramedics saved her life after she went into cardiac arrest at work.

The mother-of-two collapsed at her desk in Sydney during a conversation with her boss, who felt an unwarranted need to get into work early that morning.

Within minutes, a paramedic team arrived to revive Ms Calabria with a defibrillator.

"I was shocked twice until I regained a pulse, but I didn't regain consciousness," she said.

"If it wasn't for the actions by those at the scene, I wouldn't have made it to the hospital."

After waking up from a coma - and suffering from short term memory loss - Ms Calabria was shocked to discover she had been diagnosed with a rare cardiac genetic syndrome called Brugada Syndrome, a condition that causes a disruption of the heart's normal rhythm.

"The syndrome has a 50 per cent chance of being passed down to either one or both of my beautiful kids," she said.

"I have an implantable cardioverter defibrillator installed in my chest that will protect me from any further potential episodes leading to a possible cardiac arrest."

"It's the access to a defibrillator in those first few minutes that can mean the difference between saving or losing a life."

Sonia has told her story as the face of a joint partnership between Coles and the Heart Foundation that will see Automated External Defibrillators rolled out to all Coles supermarkets across Australia over the next month.

Heart disease is Australia's biggest killer, with more than 18,000 people losing their lives each year - equivalent to two deaths every hour.

The Heart Foundation's Group CEO, Adjunct Professor John Kelly, congratulated Coles for taking an active role in protecting the heart health of Australians.

"Coles will make AEDs more accessible so they can be deployed quickly in an emergency, which will save lives," Professor Kelly said.

"AEDs are critical to saving lives as every second and minute counts when a person is having a cardiac arrest.

He urged Australians to take advantage of a new Medicare benefit and see their GP for a Heart Health Check.

"This could prevent 76,500 heart events over the next five years, including heart attacks, strokes and deaths," Prof. Kelly said.

Coles Director of Safety David Brewster said the safety of customers and team members is a top priority at Coles, with a minimum of five team members at every supermarket trained and accredited in first aid by St John Ambulance Australia so they can help in medical emergencies, including performing cardio-pulmonary resuscitation (CPR) in the event of cardiac arrest.

"By having defibrillators available for our customers and team members, we will be even more able to provide help that has been shown to increase the chances of survival for people who suffer a sudden cardiac arrest," he said. 

"All our first aid team members will be trained in the use of the AED, and we have chosen an easy-to-use device that includes audio and visual instructions so that just about anyone can use it in the case of an emergency."

HEART-STARTER: Coles has signed a partnership with the Heart Foundation seeing  Automated External Defibrillators (AED) rolled out to all Coles supermarkets over the next month.
HEART-STARTER: Coles has signed a partnership with the Heart Foundation seeing Automated External Defibrillators (AED) rolled out to all Coles supermarkets over the next month. Coles

AEDs have already been installed at five Coles supermarkets and a national roll-out to more than 820 Coles supermarkets across Australia is set to be completed by July 1. 

The defibrillators will be located near the customer service desk and will be accessible for neighbouring retailers and small businesses to use in the event of an emergency. 

The Heart Foundation's General Manager of Heart Health Bill Stavreski said Heart Health checks were the best way to understand and manage the risk of heart disease, as many risk factors are silent or have no visible symptoms.   

"The Heart Foundation recommends that people aged 45 to 74 years have a heart health check at least every two years, sooner if recommended by your doctor - for Indigenous Australians the checks should start at 30," Mr Stavreski said. 

Heart Health Checks are now covered by Medicare for eligible Australians.