Tragedy Strikes Twice for Local Woman

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Susan Cox did the unthinkable – she drove herself to the hospital, even though she thought she could be having a heart attack.

Her children had already been through so much when they lost their father to heart disease, so she didn’t want them to see her leave in an ambulance.

Susan said, “Just two years ago my husband Randy was at St. Elizabeth for heart surgery. That was the most difficult time of my life. Randy was everything to me, we were together for 20 years.”

After Randy suffered a heart attack, Cardiac Surgeon Victor Schmelzer, MD performed triple-bypass surgery. Soon after surgery, Randy suffered a stroke. When he woke, he remembered the names of family members, but most of his memories appeared to be gone. Randy then went to rehab to get stronger, but he suffered a second heart attack and stroke. He returned to St. Elizabeth for care and in the end was under the care of Hospice.

“Dr. Schmelzer was there for me every step of the way when Randy was sick. Not only was he caring for Randy, he was there for me. He would always ask how I was doing, put a hand on my shoulder, or sometimes let me cry in his arms,” Susan said. “Although Randy didn’t make it, Dr. Schmelzer did everything he could for Randy and my family. He was unbelievably good to me.”

Nine months later, Susan arrived at the St. Elizabeth Edgewood Emergency Department and learned she was having a heart attack and would need surgery. There was one thing Susan was sure of when she arrived, she wanted Dr. Schmelzer to care for her.

“I found out I had small arteries and they may need to transfer me for surgery. But I knew if anyone could take good care of me, it was St. Elizabeth and Dr. Schmelzer, and so I stayed at St. Elizabeth for surgery.”

Dr. Schmelzer discussed his care for Susan and her family, “I had the opportunity to become acquainted with Ms. Cox and her family while taking care of her husband, Randy, a few years ago. It’s extremely gratifying when family members of previous patients choose our team at St. Elizabeth Heart and Vascular Institute for their heart care.”

Dr. Schmelzer added, “When Ms. Cox needed surgery we took into consideration that she has school-age children that relied on her every day. Getting to know our patients and their unique life circumstances is an important element in our ability to provide the personalized care for each and every patient that they deserve. Our staff, nurses, and physicians work together daily to meet the unique needs of every patient and their families.”

Susan believes it takes a special kind of person to care for someone when they are at their weakest, and she felt that kindness throughout her experience with her husband and during her care.

Susan said, “Dr. Schmelzer means so much to me. I can’t say enough about the support and compassion he gave me when my husband was sick. He is one of the kindest people I have ever met. Then when I needed surgery, he was there for me again.”

After surgery, Susan attended the St. Elizabeth Cardiac Rehabilitation program. Today, she is doing well – she has quit smoking, exercises regularly and eats a healthy diet.

Many women, like Susan, don’t immediately recognize the symptoms of a heart attack, because they might not experience classic chest pain. Instead, women are likely to experience symptoms such as:

  • Nausea
  • Shortness of breath
  • Overall discomfort and fatigue

Susan hopes not to need another heart surgery, but she knows, “if I ever need Dr. Schmlezer or St. Elizabeth, they will be there for me.” She added,”I will also never drive myself to the Emergency Department if I think I am having a heart attack.”

Learn more about heart attack symptoms.