After she flatlined in her husband’s arms, Cherie stayed alive thanks to several medical devices. Listen what she’s up to with her new lease on life and why she’s encouraging others to live big and be happy.
Recorder: Are you ready to master the waves of medical device product development? Well wax up your surfboard because you are listening to inspired by Imua. Here is your medical device product development expert that Hawaiian hearted hostess who will help you hang ten. Meghan Alonso.
Meghan: E komo mai and aloha! You’re listening to inspired by Imua, where we help you master the waves of medical product development. Each week we interview guest that educate, guide and inspire to give you and your product the skills you need to hang ten. If this is your first time listening, Imua is spelled I-M-U-A and it’s a Hawaiian word. It means to advance forward with passion despite rough waves. There are plenty of those in the medical device development but keep listening because we’ve got you covered.
Meghan: So today I’m so excited and I wanna get on right know and start talking I have an amazing guest she was dead for 90 minutes and then brought back to life. She has a cool story about of how medical devices played a role in her life and got her back and going to where she is today. She is the CEO and founder of Live Big and Be Happy which kinda focuses on living your life with no regrets which we all should be doing cause we have only 1 unless you are here because she kinda have two. Please help me welcome Cherie Aimee, Cherry are you ready to hang ten?
Cherie: I’m so ready Meghan thanks for having me!
Meghan: You’re welcome and talk about Imua you embodied that spirit as well so I kinda gave a little overview there but let’s dive into what you do in your business first and then we’ll get into the juicy part of the story.
Cherie: Sure absolutely so I run a group right now called Live Big be Happy and in there it’s a inspiration of life with no regrets. After this whole tragedy that I had that I suffered from 7 years ago now I have this new perspective this new outlook on life now and really about living life to the fullest everyday I’ve taken my last breath and I know what it’s like to have the flood of regrets of how I lived my life prior to my death and because of that I show up very differently in life now and I think a lot of people especially those that have recently done to know me on line because that’s where my brand needed to begin to come out into the world. The social media because I’m still recovering to my heart transplant and people feel this fire in me this passion this enthusiasm this pride and it really comes from this incredible miracle of being given a newly life a second life as not many people get a chance be able to say that they die and something happen that brought them back to life and now they have the chance to do this over again in the back of my mind I always have this moment of when I took my last breath and it is a constant reference plain for me where I check in within myself everyday and I am living life as fully as I possibly can or am I keeping myself small out to fear. This is group is the hub of my brand right now because I do plan on doing so many things in the world so help heal so many people and help inspire people to live their best life and also help remind people such as this incredible doctors and medical engineers and surgeons that made decision to do what they do and to do it so well that they actually brought me back to life.
Meghan: And I think you – the head right now I know we have some people listening that have been kind of – with the idea of developing a product that they know could have a big impact on other people lives and that’s what I love bringing people like sharing on the podcast that can really push you over and inspire you just to go out there and do it now cause your limited on time on earth and you want to make it an impact. I know we’ve been waiting but let’s dive into your story before you died before that what lead up to this and then take us to the journey of everything that happen to that one day.
Cherie: So I was writing my own digital tech and literally at the height of my success I build myself as a lead programmer a lead project manager really work my way up from a digital text start-ups I did a – for a little at Microsoft work for different engineering firms and lands myself working for corporate advertising and marketing where I handled multimillion dollar campaigns for fortune 500 companies we do a lot of promotional stuff that eventually stuff – so it’s very fast pace tough industry but I love it and I thrive of that type of speed in business. I was very active I guess a workaholic you could say but for me I kinda use the term passionate I love being creative I love what I do. I – the very good salary to start my very own digital tech and it was amazing it took off right away but very soon after I have the whole staff of 20 people I got diagnosed with cancer.
Meghan: What kind of cancer?
Cherie: — cancer. So they treated it’s about 98% curable the percentage might be little higher for that but it’s definitely labelled as a curable cancer which means there is a set regimen there is a set course a protocol of you know how to treat it and I was treated with force standard chemotherapy drugs and I my body was receipted to it and few months later I went into remission and I finished out in 6 months. Very difficult treatment it’s a chemotive and with that very harsh drugs and they have to monitor your heart for heart failure and all that stuff so I was cancer free and well building my new life back and healthy eating holistic foods exercising and really feeling like okay that’s a little bump on the road someone it was detected was my heart was getting into heart failure and it took about three weeks of undiagnosed test and one day literally I wasn’t feeling well my husband rushed me in the ER and within 5 minutes of locking in I – in his arms.
Meghan: So those 3 weeks – to it did you feel any difference. Did you start to feel – or just not have a lot of energy where you dizzy any symptoms that you felt?
Cherie: The symptoms in those 3 weeks were short as the breath. It even got to the point when I will hyper ventilate and just collapse to the ground and it almost look like a panic attacks and I think quite often I can actually missed diagnosed but that’s quite what happened and starting to get treated as a panic or anxiety attack. I wake up in the middle of the night and couldn’t breath I ended up going into the emergency room but they didn’t run their appropriate test and that they are ready to take my gall bladder out. Thankfully I knew enough to object and say you don’t have enough data to justify cause they’re kinda like I think it is your gall bladder I’m not quite sure I doubt enough and ask questions to realize that they had no data anything was wrong with my gall bladder and you are not taking my gall bladder out and thankfully I said that because I probably died out there. So another 3 weeks went by I try to get to different doctors that have been taking care of me and unfortunately I kept hitting – what are your symptoms? They keep saying go to the ER and I said I’ve already been to the ER. They want to take my gall bladder so a lot of boss were dropped I never really get the chance to get into see the doctors and everything was kinda mess so it just lead up to that day where my heart just gave up.
Meghan: So now let’s get into what happened after so you came into the ER and just happens so fast you flat lined in your husband’s arms so what happens next?
Cherie: So what I thought like it’s interesting because the nurse was starting to put the IV in me but – at me so they are the one to tell her that something is wrong is her you know they did the code blue from what I hear the emergency room just turned into – and i guessed you know major doctors were just jumped up on the table and hovered me. Life support and they couldn’t get my arteries done it wasn’t working so they did a little bit longer and when it wasn’t sticking the staff prepare to my thermo death and there was 1 man that was in the room that happen to be my long term doctor he was my cardiologist just randomly happen to be on call it was a Saturday never on call he just happen to be on call. And so he ignored everybody try to calm me down to death from what I hear he just ordered everybody like a drill sergeant and told them. The whole hospital didn’t see nothing like it before they kinda panicked they didn’t know what to do like you know we’ve lost here let’s call a time of death and he was like no so he had to take control of the room and it sounds like he had to directly look everybody in the eye and tell them exactly what to do and he ordered them to continue to CPR and long enough for him to figure out what to do. What he did was he installed a temporary life support I believe it’s the – it allowed the oxygen to get to the rest of my organs to bypass my heart which is no longer beating so they have to do this simultaneously and so at that point once he finally getting in I was just being kept alive you know oxygen going to my other organs the heart has absolutely stopped. So at this point my family has no idea what’s going on. I was rushed in the OR and you know they did everything they could do and they came back out and told my family you know it’s nothing else we can do the only hope is my doctor happen to teach once a month in New York city near Presbyterian literally top cardio hospital in the entire world and he said –phone calls and before you knew it I literally had the – and their medical teams. Jumping in the ambulance and come get me.
Meghan: That’s great! So you were transferred hospitals or they just came down to the hospital.
Cherie: They came up to where I live to come get me switch me to their life support and then they took me back down to – I believe there was a – so they had to do the ambulance and they took me down and on the way down they called my husband said follow us down and basically to do a open heart surgery so my husband is freaking out and not understanding and at this point my family is not understanding that I’m pretty much dead at this point so when I arrive at Columbia all the record showed that I was barely hanging the test shows there is no movement in my heart so they rushed me in I was in operating room. Open heart surgery for 18-20 hours it was very extreme and what ended up happening is when I came out I was still in a coma and what happened they kept me alive via what you called a centro mag so it’s a kinda like a larger version of what the – does but it’s in external heart it was a full blown machine next to me. That had 6 or 4 very thick tubes that attached to my stomach and lead into my heart they kept the oxygen going into my organs. It was a massive device that was terrifying looking but it was keeping me alive and what end up happening was every complication happened to me when I was in a comatose state I had infection disease I started bleeding everywhere and they couldn’t figure out why. It turned out for so much CPR my ribs have actually punctured my lungs.
Meghan: That’s common what you have in your ribs.
Cherie: And what’s craziest I literally found that out about 2 weeks ago cause there is parts of my story that to survive this whole ordeal I didn’t want to know what was going. It was such a frightening ordeal that I make sure people around me didn’t tell me detail. I didn’t want to know I was dying you know I would literally stop telling me that and even when I came home I don’t want to hear it’s unreal to hear people say what happen to me and I’m like what? So I literally like the other day I heard somebody that tell me that I’m bleeding from everywhere but I never ask any more details and the other day somehow my husband and I are talking about that and it was from the CPR.
Meghan: What’s the name again the external that you talked up to?
Cherie: I think it was the Centromag that was one of the major devices so I was in the any possible life support I was in the centromag the – I was on the ventilator because they have to actually stop my lungs from breathing so they could heal so that’s why I ended up in the ventilator. They have to hook me up through the neck scary and it was wild I woke up for the first time out of my coma 7 days later and I could not believe what happen. I thought I was in a car crash. I don’t remember anything.
Meghan: Yeah I can’t imagine when you wake up and you’re hooked up to all these machine.
Cherie: And people tell you “you are in New York and you’re like how did I get in New York?” and I’ll never forget the thing to me “what year it is” it is 2003 and it was 2010 I mean I have no concept of anything so it’s just the first few moments were crazy but then they have to put me back in a coma for another 3 months and it really literally was over 8 weeks of touching – not knowing if I would survive I mean I would literally like over 8 weeks I’m like 00 something percent chance of surviving.
Meghan: So they induce you in a coma after that or?
Cherie: So yeah they induce me after that. It was rough 3 months in a coma, 4 months total in a hospital and what happened was there was so much damage my heart when I flat lined that there are really was no when you’re hooked up in this centromag you know.
Meghan: Probably after –
Cherie: My heart was barely functioning again but then my family was approached about this amazing new device that just been the FTA approved called — the models — and they were like she’s young she’s got everything going for here.
Meghan: How old are you when that happened?
Cherie: I think I was 33.
Meghan: So you’re really healthy and good candidate for long term so compared to maybe some of the other cases they even – I had literally less 1 percent chance of surviving they’re still like we have this device and we have hope so just that glimpse of hope and it’s amazing doctors I offered this glimmer of light to my family and they were very hopeful despite the dire circumstances that I could pull through and I think they just held onto that although it’s funny – they’re like I can’t believe you survived. You were so confident with my family.
Meghan: I think they have to be it’s kinda that whole mentality of you know if you’re sad then smile and that kind of gets you in the mindset of a positive attitude and starts you to believe okay this is – you know we can’t do this.
Cherie: Yeah absolutely, I’m so grateful they did that because it really did give everybody a hope including me I mean I remember hook up in the life support when I starting to be – and now you’re like your probably back – maybe why like – life support. The doctors are coming and you’re doing great and they give me the smile and it was just like hope it’s so powerful. There’s just so much to that and every staff member right down to the people who will come just to clean my room or mop the floors gave me hope every single day. It was so powerful I still see them today and they’re like how are you. Everybody in the hospital sitting saved my life it’s incredible and yes so what end up happening was to be wind of life support like they said they have this device I don’t wanna see all that and would require another open heart surgery to switch devices but this device would now be portable like a mini version of this heart pumper who is keeping me alive. It will allow you to go come and actually live somewhat of a normal life so I know how to go through rehabilitation and I was able to come home and for 4 and a half years I stand on that until I got my heart transplant.
Meghan: Did you say 4 and a half year or 4 and a half months?
Cherie: 4 and a half years so what happened was I can’t go directly on a heart transplant because I recently have cancer so they need to put like 5 years or something like that between because you’re gonna be – so we kinda waited I think a good 5 years and then they are going to place me and then I waited a year and a half for my heart.
Meghan: So fast forward what’s your life like with the – first of all you were happy to be out of the hospital and you just adapted to having your heart did you have it in your – or a backpack or how did you carry.
Cherie: So they give you a – but there are a lot of wires especially with this device there is a lot of components internal titanium pumped inside you and then there’s a wire leads out of this stomach that connects to heavy batteries that power the pump and there is the controller and actually controls it and have a series of alarms. A series of it’s kinda like your Iphone where you can tell how many bars you have left for your battery power so I was literally walking like Iphone and I would have to check okay I have 3 bars left. I go grocery shopping and when the power will red you gotta switch batteries so there’s a lot of training you have to do there is a lot of mindset training to do because it’s scary when you’re first implanted and this device is keeping you alive. I was so terrified of the device this happens to a lot of patients who don’t even want to touch the batteries. The physical assistant or physician to sustain or the nurses or somebody to do it for us because it’s so scary like what if I do it wrong you know what I mean? Or I don’t switch the batteries fast enough is my heart gonna be okay?
You have a lot of emotional fears I and I’ll never forget when person up in the rehabilitation for – you’re scared of it right now because you don’t know enough about it so they were like you’re gonna be here for 2 weeks let’s just go for all in and watch all the videos and take notes and write down every question you have about this device and keep asking every single day and down worry about being a pain in the butt but get your questions answered I want you to have – become your best friend and it was best advice ever because I get to know that device inside and out so well that I started training the nurses that was taking care of me because I understand because it’s all new so there floors in hospital that were not fully trained yet with this device even though they were nurses they’ll still kinda like – so I will actually during the day I would have a room full of nurse okay this is how it works and they loved it and it was great for me because I started to feel like wow I’m helping even though I’m in this dire condition I feel valuable I feel like the world needs me right?
Meghan: That’s a great feeling too just when you’re rehabilitating from everything and this is my purpose right now.
Cherie: Totally absolutely so when I came home I was very comfortable with it. It was still scare there are still emotional piece with it but for the most part my husband was like Mr. Fix it so he’s been in the construction for years he can fix cars and all of that stuff. It helps that it didn’t fear him and he understood how that functions an engineer level so anytime I’m in fear he would be like oh no that’s okay that’s because of blah blah. We just kinda did it together when I came home we just faced it together and for 4 and a half years I was just determined to live big and be happy and really just like I didn’t know he faith of my future so I really needed to become best friends with the device what if I was on it for the rest of my life cause some people are. It interesting to look back now that I have my heart transplant it’s interesting to look back and to be like wow I can’t believe – heart for 4 and a half years.
Meghan: So you’re looking to connect and you have in the past but you always like to get out there and do then or go to the manufacturing company and talk to them and just share your story and really inspire those who are working in medical technology and you mention you have an upcoming event that’s not totally solidified yet but share with the audience what that is. I know you want more of this so if people are listening out there and hear this it’s kinda like an invitation like hey I can speak in your event too.
Cherie: Yeah absolutely so there’s this amazing event coming up where I’m gonna build a 20 minutes chemo speech in front of literally the top of surgeons, doctors, medical engineers in the heart transplant and you know medical device are – I’ve be able to get up there and speak and share my story in front of them. They personally invited me they invited me to the dinner afterwards this is literally a dream come true for me because when I got my heart transplant I came back one of the first thing they did before I could even walk again well I was still at home rehabilitation I actually wrote my first number 1 bestselling books it’s called How to rock and all that like a fashionista. 10 tips to finding the perfect bag for your left ventricular assist device and were talking back how I carried it that’s how I carried it in actual back pack which my husband and I. We took an existing one and we – a little bit and it works so well for me that I had other – patients from different hospital in the country actually ordered them for me so I would still love to we’re still contemplating actually creating our own prototype to really help because you know there’s something about carrying I was referring about the wires. When you can hide all the wires and you can make sure that the device number 1 safe and secure but number 2 where you feel somewhat back to normal and that people are not gonna be staring at you and you’re out and all that it really helps emotionally for your time in the – and so that’s one of my big goals but yeah I’d love being able to share my story being able to chat and multiple interviews with top surgeons that do the heart transplants it was in the documentary. Broadcasting from Japan with the top surgeon heart transplant surgeon that did my surgery so I’m open to speaking events media appearances anything that help supports these engineer, doctors, nurses hospitals that are saving so many lives around the world.
Meghan: It’s not normally that side of things but like you mentioned with the book and with the bag and just really connecting with the other patients going through that and easing their mind giving them like you are their coach to this and this is how you live big and be happy even with all that and we’re gonna get this together and that’s great.
Cherie: Absolutely it’s my biggest joy I still to this day and I see you often though ask me as well if I will be willing to do this any event patient that is struggling emotionally in the hospital so it’s one of my favourite thing to do mostly because I know the power of somebody who did that for me.
Meghan: Yeah well I’m gonna connect to you like I mentioned with EJ and I have another previous guest – also had an – and I feel like the three of you can bond together and kinda have a support group or just the site where everybody can connect and build a community or something.
Cherie: Yeah definitely I would love that it’s so needed I think there is support groups but I think a lot of it what I want to create is something slightly different where a lot of times the support groups are great some of the medical concerns that I found for me that what help me really heal and find peace of the device was flooding myself with positivity and mainly happy that really helps.
Meghan: So speaking of reaching out to you and getting you involve of different kind of stuff how can we reach you?
Cherie: So the best place is you can actually join my free community it’s right on facebook so you can do a search within facebook #LIVEBIGBEHAPPY or you can go to facebook.com/groups/livebigbehappy and you can also visit my personal website which is cherieaimee.com.
Meghan: I’ll those in the show note page for you guys in case that makes it easier to go from there. Thank you so much for being on today and you really have embodied the spirit of IMUA and I know that you are already had and continue to do so to kind of share that with others and really push them to move forward in their lives despite the rough waves that they’re encountering so keep doing that.
Cherie: Thank you so much Meghan I really appreciate this and I’m excited to setting this off to my doctors as well so they can share it with other.
Meghan: Well mahalo for being on the show today and I just want to remind you guys that if you have that idea that’s just been kind of floating around in your head and haven’t done anything with. I have a program for that I’m wrapping up my beta version and this will open up soon for you to be a part of the new and refined version so you can check that out it is IMUA-SERVICES.COM/IIPP or you can just text the word INVENTION to the number 44222 I’d love to have you be a part of that until the next episode, IMUA!
Mahalo for joining us. If you’re new to riding the waves of medical device product development, or if you’ve been in development for a while already, Inspired by Imua is here to surf with you. Want to be a master of the waves? Text hang ten that’s all one word HANGTEN to 44222. We’ll send you the most common wipe outs companies make in product development so you can avoid them and reach master wave status. Again, that’s HANGTEN to 44222. We publish a new episode every Tuesday, so catch us at Inspiredbyimua.com. Imua!