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A Big Heart is Mike Papale's story of surviving cardiac arrest,
learning to live with illness,
finding your life path,
& committing to helping others
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"The fact that Mike survived this out-of-the-blue, life-threatening cardiac event is itself a miracle.
What follows here is that story…one that is filled with courage, persistence, strength, and the unstoppable passion to prevent sudden cardiac death."
- DR. MARTIN MARON,
Director, HCM Institute at Tufts Medical Center
About The Author
Since his miraculous recovery from sudden cardiac arrest at age 17, Mike Papale has never stopped moving.
The Founder and CEO of nonprofit organization In A Heartbeat—dedicated to preventing death from sudden cardiac arrest and hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM)—served several years as a college basketball coach at UMass Lowell, Quinnipiac University, and Southern Connecticut State University before channeling his transformative journey into the pages of his book, A Big Heart.
As a professional Motivational Speaker, Mike loves helping others discover and engage their own life-igniting spark—inspirational energy he naturally instills in students through his role as Fairfield College Preparatory School’s Head Basketball Coach.
Creator and Host of A Big Heart Podcast, Mike addresses how to overcome the physical and emotional obstacles of life with heart disease—exploring a different challenge in each episode.
Mike serves on the Board of Directors for the Ulbrich Boys & Girls Club, the Central CT Coast YMCA, the John Taylor Babbit Foundation, and is a member of the Rotary Club of Wallingford—part of a global network of 1 million+ problem-solvers dedicated to working together to create lasting change in the self, in the local community, and around the world.
In his spare time, you can find multi-hyphenate Mike enjoying life with family and friends, traveling, golfing, cycling, or wholeheartedly rooting for the Knicks, Giants, and Red Sox.
A Big Heart
Sitting in the front row of the bleachers, at age 17, without warning, I slumped to the ground. Blackness. Silence. Nothing. I died.
* * *
Conor Meehan, 17, lowered his gaze from the basketball camp game playing out before him to his best friend suddenly lying at his feet.
“Haha—very funny, Mike,” he muttered, nudging him with his shoe. “Stop messing around.”
Mike didn’t move. The gym, full of young kids, turned into mayhem. The game stopped.
Realization washed over Conor, and he raced for help. He burst outside the gymnasium doors to find Mike’s father, Mike Papale, Sr., in the Wallingford Parks and Recreation Center’s lobby. Panic rising, Conor quickly relayed the scene. Mike’s dad went white, and he sprinted toward his seventeen-year-old son’s lifeless body.
“Mike!” he shouted.
But Mike Papale did not respond. He wasn’t breathing. His skin was a ghastly blue. A crowd gathered around the Papales as the chaos continued in the gym. People were running and screaming for help. No one knew what to do—least of all Mike’s dad, who watched helplessly as his son lay motionless on the polished floor. Someone called 9-1-1. Another lifted Mike’s feet into the air, thinking this might help. Somebody else brought a fan over to try to cool him down. No one realized at the time that Mike was clinically dead—he had suffered sudden cardiac arrest.
Cool air and elevated feet would do nothing for him. His only hope to revive was CPR and the shock of an Automated External Defibrillator (AED). But no one knew CPR, and there was no AED onsite. Unbeknownst to those rushing to Mike’s aid, with each passing minute his odds of survival dropped precipitously.
Statistically, sudden cardiac arrest has a roughly ninety percent survival rate if a shock is administered within one minute. Survival odds plummet another ten percent with each passing minute without defibrillation. Mike was already five minutes post-cardiac arrest.
A BIG HEART
by Mike Papale