Stacey Tyranski says she never would have come home to her husband and two children if it wasn't for James Amos, the off-duty West Dundee firefighter who saved her life in March after she went into cardiac arrest.
"I'd probably be dead," Tyranski, 36, said. "The time that I was unconscious was about two minutes, and they say within six minutes you're completely brain dead. Definitely I'm very thankful for Mr. Amos."
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On March 20 the Huntley mom had just completed a Zumba class at Lifetime Fitness in Algonquin when she told a worker she wasn't feeling well. She left to get some water and promptly collapsed outside the dance studio.
Tyranski was born with a congenital heart defect called transposition of the great vessels, which means the two major arteries that carry her blood away from her heart were switched. Though she had surgery as an infant to correct the issue, one of the side effects is an irregular heartbeat.
That is what sent her into cardiac arrest at the gym.
Amos had just finished a four-mile run on the treadmill when he heard a call for assistance over the fitness center's public address system. He found Tyranski on the ground without a pulse and not breathing. He performed CPR, gave her two breaths, then used the gym's automated external defibrillator to shock her heart twice.
Because she still didn't have a pulse, Amos continued performing CPR. Tyranski began breathing two minutes later but remained unconscious.
Firefighters from the Algonquin/Lake in the Hills Fire Protection District took Tyranski to Advocate Sherman Hospital in Elgin.
She was later transferred to Loyola University Medical Center in Maywood, where doctors installed a subcutaneous cardioverter defibrillator, a first for the hospital, she said. The device shocks her heart 20 seconds after she starts having irregular heartbeats to prevent cardiac arrest.
"It feels like someone punches you really hard in the chest," Tyranski said of the shock. "It's not pleasant, but it's quick."
As a result of the surgery, she's barred from driving until June and can't lift anything heavier than 10 pounds. Tyranski works as a part-time server at the Anvil Club in East Dundee and had been off work since the episode.
Her medical expenses have set the family back at least $250,000. A friend of Tyranski, Michelle Stien, an Algonquin resident, set up a site for donors on Go Fund Me. Another friend, Jackie Hanshaw, arranged a Zumba fundraiser for the family in Woodstock.
Amos, 39, of Carpentersville, recently received a letter of commendation from the West Dundee Fire Department for his quick actions that resulted in saving Tyranski's life.
Fire Chief Randy Friese presented it to him at an April village board meeting. It is one of several local honors the veteran firefighter received for coming to Tyranski's aid.
"As a member of the fire department, he has exemplified our highest standards, and he acted above and beyond on his own, and so I think it's important when one of my members does that," Friese said.
Amos says he was just doing his job.
"That's how the fire service is," he said. "You help people and then you go right back to hopefully helping the next person, you know?"
Amos, Tyranski and their families have become friends and have already shared a couple of dinners together.
Besides the letter of commendation from West Dundee, Amos also received a letter of thanks from the Anvil Club and Liberty Mutual Insurance's Firemark Award.
Though Amos downplays his heroics in Algonquin and continues to say he was merely in the right place at the right time, Tyranski thanks him for coming to her rescue.
"It was all planned out by God from the way it happened to the way it ended, hands down," Tyranski said. "I get teary-eyed every time I think about it."