2/27/19

Strong family support helps heart attack survivor make a comeback

Ask Joyce Livesay about her time at Carle Foundation Hospital in late January 2018, and she doesn’t remember most of it.

When she woke up, the first person she saw was her son, Greg. Livesay thought, “He shouldn’t be here.” Her son, who lives in Virginia, caught a flight in the middle of the night to be by his mom’s side.

Then she thought something happened to her daughter or husband. But as she scanned the room, Carrie and Dick were there too.

Livesay later learned she had a heart attack and received two stents to relieve blockages. She almost didn’t make it.

“Joyce was very sick when she was in the hospital with multi-organ failure including cardiogenic shock. Some of the decisions like going ahead with the cardiac catheterization and stenting of the vessels were risky, but with her family’s help and support, we went ahead with the procedures in spite of the high risk,” said Naveed Adoni, MD.

During the months leading up to Livesay’s hospital stay, she went to the hospital with chest pains. Each time the doctors would run tests, but they came back normal.

“By the third time, I was like, ‘This is embarrassing.’ They couldn’t find anything wrong, but then, my blood pressure started to drop,” Livesay said.

Livesay credits her nurse and doctor as being two of the main reasons she’s still with us.

“Kaitlyn saved my life by keeping a close watch on my monitor and acting quickly to get the doctor and call my husband. Dr. Adoni did a pretty great job as well,” Livesay said with a laugh. “When he came in to talk to me, he inspires confidence. He doesn’t sugarcoat things, and that makes people trust him.”

Her nurse, Kaitlyn (Aquino) Henderson, Cardio Vascular Intensive Care Unit (CVICU), who the family nominated for a DAISY, had a feeling something wasn’t right and continued to remain vigilant over Livesay.

“My gut feeling coupled with my knowledge of the many ways a heart attack can present itself in the female population caused me to be on my toes and take action when I saw the need in Joyce’s case,” Henderson said. 

Greg felt like Dr. Adoni was with the family during his mother’s fight for her life, and new symptoms would present themselves adding confusion.

“We completely trusted him as he took the time to look at the whole picture. We will forever be thankful to him, and I truly believe he’s an angel that stepped in to help my mother,” Greg said.

Dick called the experience “traumatic” because at any moment, things could have gone wrong.

“Dr. Adoni asked about Joyce’s wishes, and we figured out everything right there in the waiting room because he didn’t think she’d make it through the night,” Dick said.

“He’s very kind and easy to understand. I never saw a doctor around the hospital as much as we saw him. It’s comforting. ”

Even after Livesay got out of the hospital, Dr. Adoni was a constant presence in her life.

“Our daughter’s youngest son, Joel, passed away, and as soon as Dr. Adoni heard, he called us. He worried not only about our family but the stress and pressure of such a loss on Joyce,” Dick said.

During her recovery, Livesay did the hard work of cardiac rehab.

“I’m as active as I can be. My family is what keeps me trying to get better. I have my grandchildren and their sports,” Livesay said.

Both of Livesay’s parents died of heart attacks. The most important thing she learned from her experience is to always listen to your body.

“If you think something is wrong, it probably is,” Livesay said. “You need to do as much as you can every day to help you get strong and not worry about it. I had a heart attack, and Dr. Adoni made me well. I want to stay that way.”

Dick added, “Dr. Adoni calls her his ‘wonder patient.’ He believed because Joyce had such a strong family that’s why she made it.”