Heather Turland with grandchildren

Syed's sudden cardiac arrest story

I owe my life to an implantable defibrillator

Syed Ahmed has already had two sudden cardiac arrests. He’s just 40 years old.

As a dedicated father of four, it preys heavily on his mind that he may not survive a third arrest.

Syed, his wife and their young child sit on a hospital bed

Syed says: "It's really terrifying to know that I could suddenly go into cardiac arrest at any moment and even though my implantable defibrillator will shock my heart back into; rhythm, it may not work every time. I need to be prepared for that.”

Syed, a Pakistani native thought of himself as healthy and fit when he started to feel ill on the train home from work in 2018. Syed recalls: “I was on the train and began profusely sweating. I called my wife to say, ‘somethings not right’ and when she came to the station, she saw that my colour was draining from my face.”

Syed visited the hospital and discovered he had an abnormal heartbeat. He was diagnosed with Brugada Syndrome, a genetic heart rhythm condition for which there is neither a cure nor a treatment currently.

"Every six months, I underwent routine checkups and was constantly monitored. But they cautioned me that I should be prepared for a cardiac arrest. That was extremely unsettling, he says.

Syed experienced a cardiac arrest within a year of being diagnosed, and his heart stopped for almost five minutes before paramedics could attend to him. His heart rate was 250 beats per minute, according to his monitor. He spent three weeks in the hospital.

Syed in hospital

It took a long time to recover, according to Syed. “My speech was impaired and slurred a little bit and my concentration and balance were also affected.”

Syed then underwent a procedure to implant a defibrillator in his chest, which earlier this year saved his life.

"My heart stopped again on March 6, 2022, and I passed out. When the defibrillator jolted my heart, it completed its job, which was excruciatingly painful. I am grateful for it.

"At some point, I'm aware that my defibrillator might stop working and my heart might not beat again. All of my family members are aware of that, particularly my eldest daughter who witnessed my first cardiac arrest. We are all forced to deal with this anxiety,” he says.

Syed says he is heartened to learn that the Institute’s Professor Jamie Vandenberg is now trying to better identify those at risk of developing potentially fatal genetic arrhythmias like Brugada and Long QT syndrome.

"My children have undergone testing to determine whether they carry the inherited condition, but everything is currently well. They'll still undergo testing every two years. Any research that can benefit my family and others is excellent,” he says.

Syed is married to Nageen and has four children: sons Aahil, 10, and Aarib, 4, as well as daughters Inaya, 14, and Daneen, 9.

Syed and his family

He wants to share his experience to show how unexpected cardiac arrest can impact not only survivors but also families and to increase awareness of heart arrhythmia disorders, which affect two to five percent of Australians.

Acknowledgement of Country

The Victor Chang Cardiac Research Institute acknowledges Traditional Owners of Country throughout Australia and recognises the continuing connection to lands, waters and communities. We pay our respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures; and to Elders past and present.

Victor Chang Cardiac Research Institute - The Home of Heart Research for 30 Years