All the things I have known to do all my life, I had to relearn.
Taylor Brown prides herself on leading a healthy life. The online fitness content creator (@swankk0cean) and personal trainer from Canarsie says she takes a holistic approach to her health and wellness — eating a plant-based diet, practicing meditation, and keeping active. For her 25th birthday, she decided to celebrate by practicing archery with friends before going to a local restaurant for dinner and dancing.
“We had fun that night. I woke up feeling fine. Then I went to the grocery store to pick up a few things. On my way back, I threw up on the street,” she says. Over the next two days, Taylor experienced severe diarrhea and vomiting. When she began to experience issues breathing, she asked her mother to take her to the emergency room.
The family went to NewYork-Presbyterian Brooklyn Methodist Hospital, where doctors performed a chest X-ray to determine what was causing her breathing problems. The doctors initially suspected she had pneumonia. She began to pass out intermittently. A workup revealed significantly decreased heart function, and she deteriorated rapidly with dropping blood pressure and cardiac failure.
Her doctors decided Taylor should be intubated, placed in a medically induced coma, and a temporary ventricular assist device (impella) was placed to support her heart, helping pump blood from the lower chamber of the heart — the ventricles — to the rest of the body.
Despite being on mechanical support, Taylor’s health continued to deteriorate. Her heart rate dropped, her lungs were filling up with fluid, and she was going into multi-organ failure. Her doctors saw she was in a critical state of cardiogenic shock, a condition in which your heart suddenly can't pump enough blood to meet your body's needs. Dr. Berhane Worku, director of the Mechanical Circulatory Support Program at NewYork-Presbyterian Brooklyn Methodist Hospital, decided she would need to be placed on ECMO (extracorporeal membrane oxygenator) to stabilize her.
ECMO artificially supplies oxygen-rich blood to the body when the heart and lungs are incapable of doing so. This allows the heart and lungs to rest and heal. NewYork-Presbyterian Brooklyn Methodist is one of only a few hospitals able to offer ECMO.
After two days on ECMO, Taylor’s heart function improved, and her kidney function normalized. After two weeks in a medically induced coma, Taylor awoke to learn she had undergone two abdominal surgeries to have her gallbladder removed because of an infection and to stop internal bleeding requiring several blood transfusions, and had to have a fasciotomy to treat compartment syndrome — a painful condition in which swelling occurs due to decreased blood flow — that she developed in her right leg.
“When I first woke up, I was very confused. The last thing I remembered was being in the ER. Now my body was swollen all over. I was back to an infant state. I couldn’t do anything for myself — eat, shower walk,” she says. Within two days of waking up, Taylor started physical therapy while in the intensive care unit (ICU).
“I was doing 30 minutes of physical therapy and 30 minutes of occupational therapy. All the things I have known to do all my life, I had to relearn,” she says. After a week in ICU, Taylor was moved to step down before going to the rehab floor. After being in the hospital for more than a month, Taylor was discharged.
Taylor continues to recover. She has gotten back to working out — though not at her level before her hospitalization — and has begun to train clients online again.
Follow Taylor on Instagram @swankk0cean.