Actress and comedian Tracey Conway had just wrapped up filming another episode of the sketch comedy show “Almost Live!” when she pulled off a stunt that even the best in the business likely would struggle to imitate.
While she can’t remember much of that day on Jan. 21, 1995, she was told she whispered to a fellow actor ‘Boy, I don’t feel so…’ before collapsing onstage.
Her fall was greeted with laughter from a crowd that had just watched members of the cast perform a spoof of the medical drama “ER.”
Conway’s castmates were surprised by the stunt because they did not see her perform it in rehearsal.
“In any case the host … he turned around and he saw me laying on the floor and he thought ‘She must have the flu, that’s weird,’” Conway said while sharing the story with the crowd at the Rose Garden Center for the Women With Heart keynote event on Tuesday evening.
“He’s a good friend of mine. He came and he knelt right next to me thinking, ‘OK, when she comes to I’ll just tell her it’s OK, sweetie. It’s all right. You’re fine.’
“And then he really looked at me and he got super scared because he knew,” she said. “I am not that good an actress. I’m pretty good, I am, but Meryl Streep couldn’t do what I did.”
At Tuesday's event that featured both comedy and information about maintaining a healthy heart, Conway shared her experience with sudden cardiac arrest, which left her without a heartbeat for about 18 minutes.
Christus Trinity Mother Frances Louis and Peaches Owen Heart Hospital-Tyler held the event in honor of American Heart Month. The Women With Heart event was designed to be a fun evening for women to talk over wine and tapas and to laugh while learning about keeping their hearts healthy.
“I want people to get passionate about their insides, not just their outsides,” Conway, 62, of Seattle, said in an interview before the event. “It’s hard to fall in love with an organ in your body, until it’s sick.
“I think that if we could proactively get passionate about our most important organ — in my opinion our heart — it would help keep the rest of our body healthy,” she said.
While speaking, Conway encouraged attendees to know their blood pressure, weight, cholesterol, blood sugar and other factors that can influence heart health. Knowing these numbers can give individuals a clear sense of what they specifically need to improve, she said.
Conway also got the crowd of about 100 people to stand up and mimic the actions of CPR and pump their hands to the beat of the Bee Gees’ “Stayin’ Alive.”
A volunteer firefighter who was in the crowd on the night of Conway’s sudden cardiac arrest performed CPR until first responders arrived.
“The reason that I am here and I can string sentences together for you relatively well is because I got such great bystander, serious CPR,” she said.
Deb Chelette, vice president of operations a Christus Trinity Mother Frances Louis and Peaches Owen Heart Hospital-Tyler, said she thought bringing in the Emmy Award-winning actress and comedian to speak at the event was a great way for attendees to learn and have fun.
She added she hoped attendees left with several takeaways.
“We want people to know that heart disease is their No. 1 heart risk,” Chelette said. “It’s the No. 1 killer of women. We want folks to know their heart age, to know their numbers and to manage their risk factors.”
Before leaving the stage, Conway asked the crowd to place one of their hands to their heart and repeat after her.
“I pledge allegiance to my heart of the united organs of my body and to the blood vessels for which it pumps, one woman … under stress, in this busy world with love for me and just bliss for all,” she said.