Local family struggling with a ‘heart-stopping’ moment

West Milford. A young family is struggling with real world repercussions after a mother of four collapsed in cardiac arrest during a softball game last weekend.

22 Nov 2019 | 04:21

When the 31-year-old collapsed in cardiac arrest during a championship softball game Sunday, Nov. 17, it halted the local family’s very existence.

“My whole world stopped that day,” Alyssia Arnau, 31, of Hewitt, said during a phone interview Friday. “I never thought this would happen.”

Alyssia was playing first base for Maggie’s adult co-ed softball team with her husband, Josh, 29, at the Marshall Hill School field.

Sometime around the fourth or fifth inning of the game, she was running out to her position at first base when she collapsed and went into cardiac arrest, she said.

Josh, a military veteran in the U.S. Army, who had been previously deployed to both Afghanistan and Kuwait as part of the infantry, was one of the first people out on the field, immediately administering CPR to his wife.

“(At first) I didn’t know what was going on,” he said. “I didn’t know what to think or feel. I went into what I know. I went into survival mode.”

West Milford Police officers Jill Brickman and William Pittelko responded to the call and took over with CPR, and then when the ambulance arrived, used a defibrillator to shock Alyssia’s heart back to life.

“I can’t thank (the officers) enough for literally saving my life,” Alyssia said. “They are part of the reason I’m still here and sharing life with my family.”

Josh said that he didn’t really let his emotions about the situation “kick in” until the officers and other emergency crews arrived.

“When the professional came, that’s when it hit me,” Josh said. “Doing CPR was the only thing to bring her back at the time.”

For the next six days the family was thrown into uncertainty, Josh said, with the moment-by-moment events of Alyssa’s medical care dictating what the family could do.

“It’s been a long, rough week,” he said, “Not knowing what the outcome would be and not being with the kids (at times).”

After numerous tests, doctors could not find a cause for her heart stopping.

Although she had a prior known heart condition, they told her that it should not have been a factor in causing her heart to stop suddenly, and they could not find any blockages in her arteries.

“They don’t have any answers,” Alyssia said.

On Thursday, they implanted a device that acts as an internal defibrillator in case her heart stops again.

The device, known as an Implantable cardioverter-defibrillator (ICD), is a small battery-powered device placed in the chest to monitor heart rhythm, irregular heartbeats and can administer shocks through wires connected to the heart, according to the Mayo Clinic’s website.

Alyssia said it will be three months at least before she can drive a car, or work again at her job of managing a dental office in Ringwood.

Josh, a sheet metal union apprentice, has also been out of work while helping deal with the couple’s two children and two step children, 10, 7, 2 and 1.

Alyssia’s sister, who also plays on the softball team, started a GoFundMe page for the family under the name Alyssia Angel that has raised about half of its $10,000 goal to help the family with expenses and medical bills.

Alyssia said things will be rough financially during the next several months without the ability for her or Josh to work regularly.

She said she doesn’t remember anything about last Sunday, including going to the game.

“I don’t remember anything leading up to the event,” she said. “This literally hit us like a ton of bricks.”

Josh said it’s very important for people to learn CPR, just in case they ever need to use it.

“No one anticipates doing CPR on their wife, or someone they know,” he said. “I thank the military (for teaching me). It is better to know it.”

“My whole world stopped that day. I never thought this would happen.” -Alyssia Arnau, 31, of Hewitt.