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Roxanne Scully

Roxanne Scully

“My life is totally different now. Something changed in me. I was on my way out and I really didn't realize how seriously ill I was. But I learned.”

For Roxanne Scully, a married mother of two adult children, an exercise accident sent her on a lifesaving wellness mission.

Roxanne was exercising at home, alone, when she suddenly fell from her stationary bike. As she tumbled, the bike came down with her, pinning her to the ground. “I fell on my left side, and the bike came on top of me. And my husband wasn't home at the time, so my golden retriever, Rooney, laid by my side until he got home to help me get up,” she recalls. She remained underneath the bike until her husband came home about an hour later.

“I knew I did something to my ribs, because it was getting sorer. I could feel fluid in my chest and I was a little short of breath,” she says. “I knew something was going on.” A blizzard prevented her from leaving the house for three days. So when it was safe her husband took her to a local urgent care. Although she fractured her ribs, the doctor was much more concerned about her enlarged heart. The doctor told her she needed to go to the nearest emergency room as soon as possible.

“I decided I did not want to go to the local emergency room,” she remembers. “We had just gotten a letter from my husband's cardiologist that they had just joined NewYork-Presbyterian. And I said to my husband, ‘That's where I want to go.’ So we made the decision to turn the other way and we drove down to NewYork-Presbyterian Hudson Valley Hospital and that's where they started to save my life.”

At NewYork-Presbyterian Hudson Valley, doctors performed several cardiac diagnostic tests. They determined Roxanne was in congestive heart failure, which caused her heart to fill with fluid. She appeared to have had several mild heart attacks. The doctors determined she needed to be transferred to NewYork-Presbyterian/Columbia University Irving Medical Center for tertiary level care and emergency quadruple bypass surgery. Yoshifumi Naka, MD, PhD, an internationally renowned cardiothoracic surgeon, was called in to perform the surgery. But before Dr. Naka could work to repair Roxanne’s heart, he had her undergo several diagnostic tests, including one to ensure she had viable tissue that could withstand the surgery.

Roxanne’s surgery was successful. However, her recovery in the cardiac intensive care unit (ICU) was fraught.

“I was in the ICU two days after my surgery talking to my nurse. And the next thing you know, I don't know what happened,” Roxanne says. “I woke up to a wonderful nurse practitioner standing over me. She had revived me.”

The ICU doctors determined Roxanne had atrial fibrillation — an irregular heartbeat that causes poor blood flow — which caused a heart attack. She was immediately taken to the cardiac catheterization lab where a stent was placed in her heart to prop open the arteries of her heart that had collapsed.

Subsequently, a permanent defibrillator was implanted in her chest.

“My life is totally different now. Something changed in me. I was on my way out and I really didn't realize how seriously ill I was. But I learned,” Roxanne says. Roxanne remained in the ICU for several more weeks where she focused on getting well to attend her son’s upcoming wedding. During her time in the ICU she developed a close bond with a medical resident, Hannah, who was on duty when Roxanne was first admitted to the hospital and visited her every day during her hospitalization.

Roxanne began seeing her husband’s cardiologist Craig Hametz, MD, FACC, who is also the chair of Medicine at NewYork-Presbyterian Hudson Valley Hospital, for follow-up care. With help from Dr. Hametz, the rehabilitation medicine team at the Hospital, and her dog Rooney, Roxanne was able to achieve her goal to see her son get married.

“Not only did I attend his wedding, we did the mother-son dance,” she exclaims. At the wedding, Roxanne was also able to see her family — who she hadn’t seen in more than a year — particularly grandsons and her nephew who had just returned home from a deployment. “It was an amazing, amazing weekend for us to all be together.”