WALTHAM (CBS) – Sandy Carter is working from home these days and taking it easy. But the 55-year-old Waltham woman feels lucky to be breathing.
“Enjoy life,” she says, “because you honestly have no idea.”
She’s been a fixture at Nolan Brothers Boxing in recent years — and felt like she was in tip-top shape. “I was healthy — or so I thought.”
Sandy was working out on the bag that night several weeks ago, when she collapsed in cardiac arrest.
“When that happened,” says gym co-owner Matt Nolan, “everyone just kind of flew into action like it was second nature.”
Sandy Carter (WBZ-TV)
Indeed, as someone called 911, others grabbed a certain boxer working out in another part of the gym. It was off-duty Waltham firefighter Joe Swanton.
“Whether it be at work or off the clock,” firefighter Swanton says humbly, “we all have a purpose and a job to do. You’ve just got to show up and do it. That’s it. Everybody in here wanted to help.”
Swanton’s life-saving effort began within three minutes or so… when he discovered her with no pulse. EMT’s were there with a defibrillator in six minutes.
And as Sandy went to the hospital unconscious — her two adult kids were warned to expect the worst.
When she pulled out of her coma in the ICU at Brigham and Women’s, Sandy didn’t recall anything about the incident. But before waking up, she believes she had a beyond the grave conversation with her mother – who has been dead for more than a decade.
“And I remember saying ‘I’m not ready to join you yet Mom,’” Sandy explains. “‘I still need to spend more time with my kids.’”
Now, sitting at her kitchen table, Sandy says, “I want to believe Mom was there and pushed me back.”
Once on the mend, Sandy visited the boxing club with custom-made t-shirts for the owners and firefighter Swanton which read “We Save Lives.” Hers reads “Saved My Life.”
Nolan Brothers Boxing in Waltham (WBZ-TV)
“I wrote Joe a card that said, ‘I don’t know how to thank you for something like this,’” Sandy told us. “I mean how do you do that.”
“Our trophy case is rife with all of our winnings,” says club co-owner Nolan. “But this was the biggest win we’ve ever had — inside or outside the ring.”
Doctors still aren’t exactly sure what triggered Sandy’s cardiac arrest.
But they’ve told her the pacemaker/defibrillator they’ve inserted means — no more boxing.
So — for now — she’s going to take CPR classes instead.
“I want to be able to save someone should this happen down the road,” she says. “You’ve got to pay it forward.”