Chicago native Elizabeth Pearlman collapsed while taking part in a conditioning drill with her college basketball team last October. As Pearlman and her doctors state, if it wasn't for an AED being readily available, that day in the fall of 2009 likely would have been her last.

"It was the first day of practice," said Pearlman, a senior at Aurora University. "At the end of practice, we were doing sprints. On the last sprint, I suddenly felt like I had to stop running. Did I feel faint? No. I just knew that I didn't feel right. The next thing I saw was the floor coming up to my face."

Terry Smith, Head Athletic Trainer, came to Pearlman's rescue. He had one of the coaches call 911 and another grab an AED as he performed CPR. Pearlman wasn't responding to the CPR administered, so the AED was equipped and two shocks were delivered in order to restore Pearlman's heart rhythm.

For believers and skeptics, Pearlman actually remembers brief moments of her experience. "I was in a great place – it was deep and solid," says Pearlman. "Then I started feeling pricks and pokes, and I woke up to the paramedics putting needles in my veins."

After spending a week in the intensive care unit and receiving the proper diagnosis for a genetic heart disease called arrhythmogenic right ventricular dysplasia, she received an implantable cardioverter defibrillator, or ICD. Pearlman understands full well how close she came to the end.

"If not for the AED, you're dead," she said. "Growing up, I played basketball in some pretty tough neighborhoods. I played pick-up games with guys, and we were always running. What if it had happened then? What if it happened somewhere where an AED wasn't available?"

As Pearlman and the Red Cross would happily lobby, AEDs should be placed in as many places as possible, from community centers, sports fields, playgrounds, to even homes. "If you have an AED, it can increase your chance of survival," said Theresa Rees, manager of instruction and development for the Red Cross of Greater Chicago.

Although Pearlman's heart no longer allows her to play basketball, she's focusing on reaching her goal of attending veterinary school in the near future after she graduates this year. From her ordeal, she's learned many things, both grand and small. One thing she learned last fall:

"AEDs are very, very important," Pearlman said.

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