Critical care following a lifetime of cardiac challenges
Edie Necciai had her first heart attack at 38.
In the intervening years, she had multiple stents placed, and doctors told her to prepare for future bypass surgery. She’d moved to Maryland to live with her sister, Sally. Unfortunately, Edie had no luck fining primary care physicians or surgeons willing to take on her complex case. She moved to Pittsburgh, where another sibling lived, hoping to access the area’s exceptional health care system.
It was a fortuitous decision. In early March, Edie, 55, began experiencing shortness of breath and chest pain. She went to the local emergency room, where doctors confirmed she was having another heart attack. On March 18, she underwent triple bypass surgery.
Complications followed. Edie went into respiratory failure and was unable to wean from the ventilator. When Edie stabilized, her family chose Select Specialty Hospital - McKeesport for its experience caring for medically complex patients.
Edie arrived April 2 and remembers coming to at our hospital. It was an uncertain time. Visitor restrictions in place due to the coronavirus made it difficult to combat her loneliness.
A physician-led team, including nurses and therapists, created a plan to get Edie back to her family.
Respiratory therapists began gradually reducing her ventilator settings, testing to see whether her lungs could take over the work. Edie said she’d never had a panic attack. Still, she knew something wasn’t right when respiratory therapists encouraged her to take deep breaths but she only could muster short, shallow ones.
At that moment, Edie said, her respiratory therapist was “an angel.” The therapist stayed with her, holding her hand, speaking softly and maintaining eye contact. Together, they breathed through the session. Each day, Edie found more success. Over Easter weekend, Edie discovered that she could, indeed, breathe on her own. Thrilled, and surprised by her accomplishment, Edie liberated from the ventilator.
Edie further surprised herself by walking down the hallway with the encouragement of her physical and occupational therapists.
It was the “ah-ha” moment she needed in her recovery. Because they praised every minor movement, Edie said she believed in herself. She was able to walk down the hallway and gaze out the window – a moment she didn’t think was possible a month prior.
When asked to describe her time at Select, Edie paused and said softly, through tears, “Successful. My time at Select was successful.”
Edie was strong enough to go home April 29. She will be supported by her sisters and home health as she continues her recovery.
The most important lesson she learned through her illness? “I am a true survivor,” she said.