Nicole Tilton poses for a photo and smiles.At age 34, Nicole Tilton was not concerned about heart disease. She was young, worked out every day and ate well. As a chiropractor and the mother of four children, she was active and felt fine.

However, one day Nicole’s heart suddenly went into ventricular fibrillation and stopped beating. She was in cardiac arrest or sudden cardiac death.

Fortunately her husband performed CPR. First responders arrived and shocked her heart five times with a defibrillator. She was transported to the Spectrum Health Fred and Lena Meijer Heart Center where her body temperature was cooled and a heart catheterization was performed. An implantable defibrillator was placed under her skin to control her heartbeat and deliver a lifesaving shock if her heart’s electrical system stopped.

“Many aspects of my care were available to me as a result of past research,” Dr. Tilton said. “CPR training, cath lab procedures and an implantable defibrillator – they all contributed to saving my life. I wouldn’t be here without heart-related research. My defibrillator has gone off five times in three years – it has saved my life five times.

“I hope future research will discover more about the heart so that doctors will know how to prevent and cure conditions like mine,” she said. “Women have mammograms routinely to screen for breast cancer. Why can’t women have regular echocardiograms or EKGs to screen for heart disease? The reason my four kids have their mom today is because along the way an investment was made to learn more about the heart. More research will make it possible to help people in new and better ways, and ultimately save lives.”