"They didn't think I would make it, but I did."
Elizabeth Thomson, who worked for 30 years at Austin Riggs in Stockbridge, never suffered a serious illness and was always healthy. Nevertheless, she had trouble breathing one morning at work, and her condition began to rapidly deteriorate. Doctors at Austin Riggs administered CPR and she was rushed to Berkshire Medical Center's emergency department.
"It was touch and go, and I received the Last Rites," Elizabeth said. "They didn't think I would make it, but I did."
She was transferred to Baystate Medical Center, where a defibrillator was implanted in her chest. "But when I returned home, I was so weak, I didn't know what hit me," she said. "I was told that the muscle in my heart had been damaged and I had heart failure."
Two years ago, Elizabeth was referred to the Heart Failure Clinic at BMC, where Mara Slawski, MD, a cardiologist who specializes in heart failure, recommended that Elizabeth also receive a pacemaker to help her heart beat more effectively. "Since then, I've steadily gotten better and I'm feeling so much like my old self that it's amazing," she said. "My husband and I walk every day and I'm doing all of the things that people take for granted. But I couldn't do them before, and I really missed them."
Patients who suffer serious cardiac events such as Elizabeth's are sometimes left with weakened hearts - a chronic condition that requires expert medical management. At BMC's Heart Failure Clinic, patients now have access to the highly specialized care that their conditions require. In addition to the pacemaker, Elizabeth has received medications and other interventions, and is monitored closely by the Heart Failure Clinic.
"I'm doing very well now, and I owe it all to the great care I've received at BMC's cardiology department," she said. "They've taken very good care of me. At my most recent echocardiogram, my heart was pumping at about a normal rate, just like everyone else's. It's still unbelievable what happened to me, but I feel very lucky."