15 years later, Charities staff member champions life after death

Adrienne Adams has devoted the last 18 years of her professional life to Catholic Charities, partnering with families so they can thrive in our Catholic Charities Early Childhood Education (ECE) programs. “I love helping our families support their children. Our team partners with families and helps set them up for success. It’s such a gratifying opportunity to work with so many amazing, dedicated people.”

She loved her job at Catholic Charities from the start, but three years into her career, her perspective on life, and her “why,” grew stronger.

15 years ago, Adrienne was just 29 years old and in her first few months as a young mother. Her child, Ara, was born in February and was the light of Adrienne and her husband, Ryan’s, life. Adrienne had recently returned to work from maternity leave and began teaming with colleagues to plan annual Pre-Service training events. Her little one, Ara, loved listening to people read books and sing songs. Nothing indicated that anything was about to change. Then, while asleep on June 29, 2009, Adrienne went into cardiac arrest. Without any previous history of heart problems, it was a miracle that her husband woke up and immediately realized what was happening. Ryan quickly performed CPR on her until paramedics from the fire department arrived and used an Automated External Defibrillator (AED). She spent the next few weeks fighting for her life in the ICU.

“I don’t remember very much from that time. I just remember feeling like I was in fog.”

After Adrienne awoke from a medically induced coma designed to support brain function, Ryan and staff from the hospital told her about all the people who visited her daily. The ICU team told her it was the most they’d ever witnessed. She had friends and family travel across the country to sit by her side and, from the first call, her colleagues at Catholic Charities stepped up to help the new family with meals, cards from both staff and children in our ECE programs, and prayers.

During meetings at Catholic Charities, we often set aside time to share “God Moments” as a group, because there are many that occur in our agency every day. Adrienne is one of those people who always has one to share. During a meeting in April, she shared “15 years ago, you were all a light”.

“There were so many God moments that happened. Being alive to witness my child grow up, being able to have my second child and to just be here, is a God moment. But what is so special about working at Catholic Charities is that everyone surrounded me, and I just remember feeling like all of these people were a light. They helped me with rides when I went back to work, and recognized how traumatic this was for me and my family. I was offered counseling which helped my husband and me so much.”

As the ECE Director of Home Based Programs, Adrienne has moved up in her career since her life was saved 15 years ago and she makes it her mission to help others in the community by leading with grace and gratitude. She led the charge to get AEDs in every ECE center and encourages everyone she knows to take CPR classes, knowing their importance in saving lives.

Adrienne is one of the only 10% of people who survive an out-of-hospital cardiac arrest in the United States. A staggering statistic that, she says, brings tears to her eyes every time she says it.

Adrienne regularly returns to the hospital and fire department to thank the people who saved her life. She and her family share goody bags they’ve created to thank the first responders who held her life in their hands. And as she looks at her two children, she recognizes how life is a profound gift and feels nothing but gratitude to her husband, the medical staff, and the entire Catholic Charities team who supported her during such an unexpected and life-changing event.

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