Susan gets a second chance to appreciate life.

Heroes at the hospital

Susan Conner had a massive pulmonary embolism followed by three sudden cardiac arrests. Dr. Betty Chidester and the Sentara Leigh Hospital emergency department staff worked to save her life. The staff performed manual CPR, with the final time lasting 29 minutes. Susan’s heart then restarted – a minute before the 30-minute, stop-care deadline.

After Susan was stabilized, she was moved to the Intensive Care Unit (ICU).

“My sister said she had been told by all of the doctors there was little reason to hope I would live,” Susan shared.

She credits the ICU nurses with helping her survive. They made her smile. One nurse, Paul, really stood out with his singsong inflection when saying, “Time for your medi-CA-tion.” 

Support at every turn 

A week after being admitted, Susan was moved to a step-down unit. She was overwhelmed by the staff who kept saying they were happy to see her. The emergency team checked on her; other medical providers not involved in her immediate care paid visits; and a physician who performed a video consultation during Susan’s emergency treatment did so also. 

“Everyone provided excellent care,” Susan said. “I remember a great nurse by the name of Hilary. She listened to me when I needed to talk and helped me cope with being in the hospital. She was a great source of comfort and support.”

Dr. Chidester departed on vacation after treating Susan and didn’t know how she was doing. When she returned, she was anxious to check.  

“We talked for a few minutes and she said, ‘Now I am going home to cry,’” Susan remembers. “She didn’t think I had a chance of surviving either.”

She considers Dr. Chidester a hero, along with the entire emergency department staff who performed manual chest compressions and supplied a manual respirator.

Old friends reappeared to support Susan, too, and in ways that never could have been expected: Cathy Miller, case manager at Sentara Leigh Hospital, recognized Susan as a former Currituck County High School classmate. She helped coordinate Susan’s post-discharge care.

“I appreciate my friends and family even more now,” says Susan, “and I have a much more positive outlook on life. I am happier now than I was before my hospitalization.”


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