Susan

Giving Back with Heart

As a nurse, Susan helped others. But as a heart disease survivor, the Bergenfield woman has found new ways to care for people – including herself.

Susan runs Healing Hearts and Connecting Hands, a monthly cardiac support group at Jersey City Medical Center (JCMC), an RWJBarnabas Health facility.

“Once you’re a health care provider, you’re always a health care provider,” says the amiable 62-year-old, who launched the group three years ago. “I wanted to be able to talk to others who were feeling the same way, and who I could help with my own experiences.”

The staff at JCMC – where Susan receives cardiac care – backed her idea from the beginning. “They helped me get the group started. The hospital provides refreshments and a conference room; they help me get the word out.” Plus, clinical personnel often speak at the group’s meetings.

Susan’s cardiac problems struck in 2007. Her heart stopped as she was driving, and she crashed into a fence. Fortunately, paramedics arrived within moments and got her to JCMC. There, doctors quickly diagnosed her problem: her heart’s electrical system was malfunctioning, causing the cardiac arrest. They immediately gave Susan medication to regulate her heartbeat, and she spent the next five weeks in a coma.

After she regained consciousness, JCMC doctors implanted a defibrillator in Susan’s chest to treat any life-threatening problems with her heart’s rhythm.

“They saved my life,” says Susan, referring to both the paramedics and JCMC’s trauma team. “I survived because they evaluated and treated me very quickly.”

“The doctors and nurses at JCMC don’t just treat physical illnesses; they’re also concerned about our emotional well-being,” she adds. “Everyone is so caring, so personable – that’s what really makes a difference.”

Healing Hearts and Connecting Hands is an extension of that care, for Susan and her two dozen fellow support group members.

“It’s my way of giving back to the medical center and the staff for what they did for me.”