YPSILANTI, Mich. – Fabiola Gisselle Garnett of Ypsilanti was just 13 years old when her life nearly ended.
“In seventh grade, I was training for a 5K with school, something that our school did every year,” said Garnett. “I remember walking in the back with the teachers and then running to catch up with some of my friends, just a few hundred feet away, and that was the last thing I remember.”
Garnett’s heart had gone into an irregular rhythm -- and then it stopped.
“My gym teacher knew CPR. And this was back in 1999, so we didn’t have cell phones,” said Garnett. “The kids I was in class with, they went from door to door looking for someone to be home to call 911.”
As her classmates ran for help, Garnett’s teacher continued CPR.
“It was a good five minutes my teacher was performing CPR on her own,” said Garnett.
The gym teacher’s name is Pat Bennett. She’s been part of Garnett’s family ever since.
“She’s my hero,” said Garnett. “We’re very close, still we keep in contact. She’s been at every major event in my life. She’s gone to my high school graduation.”
Now 36, Garnett has another heart hero too.
Over the years, her heart health worsened. On May 25, 2017, Garnett received a heart transplant. It’s truly been the gift of life.
“Every year just gets better,” said Garnett. “I have this list that I created after my transplant of all the things I wanted to do that either I couldn’t do or struggled with. And I’ve been checking things off that list.”
Things like bodybuilding and running. She’s also hoping to travel.
“I’d love to visit Australia. I’d like to experience more cultures in different parts of the world. As far as physical activity, I’ve never been rock climbing, that’s on that list,” Garnett.
She is now paying it forward, serving as an ambassador and instructor with the American Heart Association.
“Hands-only CPR is really easy. It’s something that anybody can do and any amount of effort is better than no effort,” said Garnett. “I think that we just have to at some point just put aside the fear and just act.”
To learn hands-only CPR, click here.
To join the Michigan Organ Donor Registry, click here.