Raleigh, N.C. — Former Lt. Governor Dennis Wicker nearly died in May, and now he is sharing his amazing story of recovery from cardiac arrest.
Wicker doesn’t have any memory of the event, but that’s not the case for his wife, Alisa Wicker. She vividly remembers driving through Montgomery County on May 9 to a wedding when her husband fell ill.
He had been driving when he began feeling sick and pulled over to let his wife take the driver’s seat. She saw him struggling to walk around to the passenger’s side door and decided to call 911. But, in the process of dialing, Dennis Wicker dropped the phone in between the seats, and his wife couldn’t reach it.
“He said ‘I can’t breathe.’ He dropped the phone, and he was out,” Alisa Wicker recalled. “He was hanging over the seatbelt, and he was gray, turning blue.”
She sped to a Troy convenience store and asked for help. Alisa Wicker began performing CPR on her husband, and after three minutes, paramedics arrived and worked feverishly to restart Dennis Wicker’s heart.
He had no blood pressure, and he was clinically dead.
Emergency crews worked to resuscitate Dennis Wicker for about 15 minutes while transporting him to Troy Medical Center. At the hospital, doctors decided to cool his body to preserve his brain. He was transferred to a Pinehurst hospital, where he remained in a coma for nearly a week.
“It’s the most helpless feeling I’ve had in my entire life,” Alisa Wicker said.
Dennis Wicker said that only 4 percent of people survive an incident like the one he experienced, but he beat the odds.
“They took the respirator out, and about an hour later, he said ‘water,’ and I jumped up and down,” Alisa Wicker said.
A day later, her husband was still improving.
“All the neurons in his brain started firing, and he started talking nonstop,” she said.
“This I remember,” added Dennis Wicker, laughing.
After weeks of struggling with sleep deprivation caused by the firing neurons in this brain, pneumonia and trachea damage from the ventilator, the former lieutenant governor is now back at work as a government relations attorney.
He credits his quick-thinking wife, the medical professionals and God.
“I’m a person of deep faith, and we have to believe the good Lord’s hand was in this,” Dennis Wicker said.
After cheating death, every day is a gift as the Wickers approach their 33rd wedding anniversary.
“I think we are a lot more aware and sensitive to the time that we have to spend together moving forward,” said Dennis Wicker.
“You’re not guaranteed tomorrow,” added his wife. “We had a great summer because he lived.”
In some ways, this is the third time Wicker has cheated death. He had quadruple bypass surgery and surgery for an embolism in the past. He now has a pacemaker and a defibrillator.
He said he even had a near-death vision but won’t talk about it until he can figure out its meaning.