SALEM — Kyleigh Niziak is only 17, but she has a lot to be thankful for.
Last month, the Salem High School senior’s heart suddenly stopped after she began feeling ill during a dance class. She collapsed in her bedroom, losing consciousness.
If not for the fast work of a seven-member Salem Fire Department rescue team, Kyleigh might not have survived, according to her mother, Kimberly Niziak.
“They are, and always will be, our saviors,” the mother said. “They truly saved my daughter’s life.”
Last night, Kyleigh and her family were there to thank the men who saved her life at a selectmen’s meeting. Selectmen wanted to honor them as well, fire Chief Kevin Breen said.
Kyleigh, who said she doesn’t remember the incident, recently met the crew for the time since that scary episode Feb. 7. She was looking forward to the chance to thank them.
“They are awesome guys and I’m really thankful they saved my life,” Kyleigh said.
She has been diagnosed with a rare congenital heart defect, Wolff-Parkinson-White-Syndrome. It caused her heart rate to soar from about 60 beats per minute to more than 310 a minute, causing ventricular fibrillation, her mother said.
That’s when the heart rate becomes so rapid, no blood is pumped through or by the heart — depriving the body of oxygen and possibly leading to death.
Kyleigh had experienced heart palpitations in the past, but it was diagnosed as an anxiety disorder, Kimberly Niziak said.
When Kyleigh began having trouble that night, her mother became concerned. She decided to check on her daughter one last time before she went to sleep that night.
She’s glad she did.
When Kimberly Niziak found her daughter collapsed on the bed, she quickly called 911 and tried cardiopulmonary resuscitation. The rescue team arrived four minutes later, but had difficulty reviving the teenage girl.