by Lynda Marino

I knew I had cardiomyopathy, a group of diseases that affect the heart muscle. Often, as in my case, there are no symptoms. So, the last thing I expected was for my heart to suddenly stop working on September 15, 2015, while driving South on Transit Road in Lockport with my two-year-old daughter in the back seat.

What happened next was a series of miracles set in motion by innocent bystanders. When a driver observed my car moving slowly in a straight-line down Transit Road with a hysterical child in the back seat, he stopped his own car to run after mine. Seeing my lifeless body slumped over the console, he stopped my car by reaching in to turn off the ignition. Meanwhile, a man and woman getting gas nearby, noticed the commotion and stopped to assist. While awaiting a response to the 911 call, the man administered CPR while the woman calmed my daughter. My lips were blue, had no pulse, but the Niagara County sheriff, just minutes away, arrived and restored my pulse with an automated external defibrillator (AED).

Nearly 8½ years later, I still experience setbacks, and am currently recovering from a recent surgery for insertion of a new pacemaker. As Marketing Director of Canterbury Woods, I balance my daily work and home responsibilities. I am CPR-trained, participated in a Yale University study on exercise and hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, and continue to share my story across the world. I have raised thousands of dollars for our local American Heart Association (AHA) chapter with the help of my family and “Sling Sisters” team (a name we gave ourselves years ago after receiving an implanted pacemaker/ICD rendering us unable to move our arms). Genetic testing revealed that my condition was inherited from my father, who also has an implanted device. My children are also positive for the MYBPC3 gene, so we anticipate a long road ahead to carefully monitor their cardiac health.

At Buffalo General Hospital, physicians restored by heart and brain function by cooling my body temperature. I was in a coma, making the possibility of brain damage due to lack of oxygen highly possible. When I awoke four days later, I learned that I was mentally unharmed, and would survive. I was sent home with a life vest defibrillator, received a pacemaker/defibrillator about a month later, and underwent two months of cardiac rehabilitation.

I am grateful to my husband John, family, friends, and colleagues for continuing to support my efforts to save lives due to cardiac disease and stroke. I am thrilled to be a member of the 2024 Real Women Class of Survivors, a group of national ambassadors sharing their personal journey with heart disease and stroke, and highlighting the urgent need for all women to care for their health. As most cardiac arrests occur outside of a hospital setting, I will forever be grateful for the help of innocent bystanders who save lives through CPR.

Join me at the AHA Go Red for Women Luncheon, Lexis Club, Key Bank Center’s 100 Level, 1 Seymour H. Knox Plaza, Buffalo NY 14203, Wednesday, February 28, 2024. Learn more at, or call 585-507-7252.