After her life-altering experience at the Sentara Heart Hospital, Donna decided to make the facility a beneficiary in her will.

Donna's Story

Donna Delprete

Every year, a group of my friends spend a week’s vacation together at the Outer Banks, N.C. It was 2011 and the year before had been a tough one so I was really looking forward to this week of sun, sand and relaxation.

On the first morning of vacation, I set out early for a walk on the beach to pick up seashells - a favorite pastime of mine. As I was walking under the warm sun, my heart started to pound. I became very weak and felt tremendous pressure - like an elephant sitting on chest. I thought I would not make it through, but somehow found the strength to make it back to the home where my friends called the paramedics.

Paramedics rushed me to the fire station where Nightingale would fly me to Sentara Heart Hospital. During the flight, they were in constant contact with the emergency department, and I could tell by the communications that my condition was very serious. The next time I woke up I was in the Intensive Care Unit at Sentara Heart Hospital.

I thank God every day for the Sentara Heart Hospital. I had a rare condition called Takotsubo Cardiomyopathy. This ailment produces symptoms similar to a heart attack, but it does not involve restricted blood flow. Instead, the heart receives a flood of stress hormones that causes ballooning of the left ventricle, chest pains, shortness of breath and an irregular heartbeat. Doctors told me this usually happens after a very stressful event, but the exact causes are unknown. Didn’t my heart know I was on vacation?

The facility and staff were all so wonderful to me. I live in Pittsburgh and have been to other world-renowned hospitals, but the facility in Norfolk was just amazing. I had no local family or friends, but the staff went above and beyond to make me feel like I was at home. It’s been almost two years now, and I haven’t had any other heart problems.

After my life-altering experience at the Sentara Heart Hospital, I decided to make the facility a beneficiary in my will. I could not think of a better way to thank and honor the wonderful staff that saved my life.

- Donna
Nightingale and Sentara Heart Hospital patient