My Journey as a Cardiac Patient

By Rene Gsell, Guest Blogger

I have always had great rhythm and love to dance!  Up until my diagnosis of MS, I worked for NJ Transit at the ticket booths.  I love to travel and cook! My favorite pass time is creating dinners and inviting friends and relatives over to eat scrumptious meals.  I would design the table with place cards, place mats, centerpieces and beautiful cutlery and silverware.   Occasionally, I enjoy going to the casino and trying my luck!

In August of 2016, the unexpected happened for me when I had a stroke and had to go to the ER.   Lucky for me, I came out of it without any paralysis.  I do, however, tend to forget words, but that might be the age working its magic!

A few weeks later, on September 11, 2016, I wasn’t having a very typical night, when I began to feel very nauseous.  My left arm was hurting and I was in and out of the bathroom all night long.  I waited until the morning to call my neighbor, Maria, to let her know that I was having trouble breathing and the events of the night before.  She wanted to call the ambulance.  Prior to this I would have said “no”, but this time was different.  Maria called 911 and by the time she came downstairs from her apartment, I was unconscious and the paramedics were trying to revive me.  Maria said I was “blue”.  The paramedics took me to the hospital where Danielle, my son David’s girlfriend, was waiting in the ER.  Danielle works as a Unit secretary in the hospital.   By the time she spoke to me and blinked her eyes, the ER doctors and nurses had whisked me off to surgery, where the doctors placed a swan and a stent.

Luckily for me, Maria knew the warning signs of a heart attack and helped activate the chain of survival that saved my life.

My Journey as a Cardiac PatientMy second surgery took place on September 13th.  A mitral valve was replaced, I had a bypass and the left ventricle of my heart was kept beating by a pacemaker.  I was kept on the pacemaker from September 13, 2016 through September 28, 2016.  The original reading for my heart function was between 10 and 15%.  On the device, it was at 35%.  I was intubated and had trees of IVs in my neck and was given a variety of medications.  I don’t remember much of anything for the next two weeks, except for how efficient and caring the staff in the hospital was and I am very grateful to my surgeon.  After the removal of the pacemaker, I was wearing an external defibrillator, which I wore until the final implant of the internal defibrillator.

On October 17, 2016 I was transferred to a rehabilitation facility, where I remained for approximately 20 days.  I had some physical therapy to help me manage every day activities, such as getting dressed, getting in and out of bed and climbing stairs.  It was very slow going for me and I needed a walker to assist me.  I occasionally use a wheel chair when necessary now, as I have MS and sometimes fall.

I am still under cardiac care and have a few other medical issues, but I can now walk with and without the walker or wheelchair, depending upon how far I need to go.  I can go out for a limited amount of time.  I don’t entertain or cook for company any more, only when I feel up to it.  I try to make the best of each day.

I am very thankful to have had the doctors, nurses, and family who have helped me through my heart attack and my recovery.

Please join the American Heart Association for the 20th Annual Affair of the Heart Ball on Saturday, June 3 to celebrate saving lives through research and education. For information and tickets, visit

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