Patient Story: Meet Sylvia
Sylvia Bogusz is very lucky to be alive.
Amazingly, mind-bogglingly, awe-inspiringly lucky.
In June 2007, Sylvia was driving home from spending time with her friends after class at URI’s Talent Development Program for incoming freshmen when her tire went flat on US Route 1. She pulled out her cell phone and called her mother to come and pick her up as she waited outside her car.
But the drunk driver got there first. Seconds later, a car barreled onto the median, hitting Sylvia at 100 miles an hour. The sickening impact sent the 17-year-old girl flying 125 feet, into the middle of Route 1, across the two lane highway.
Sylvia’s mother was the first to arrive on the chaotic and traumatic scene. She found Sylvia lying crumpled, bleeding, and near death. Her maternal instincts taking over, she shielded her daughter from oncoming traffic like a lioness over a cub until help arrived.
When paramedics reached her, Sylvia had lost 66% of her blood volume. Arriving at Rhode Island Hospital by med flight, this young woman was bleeding to death.
Dr. Charles (Chuck) Adams, chief of trauma and surgical critical care, personally cared for Sylvia. For the first 48 hours, Sylvia’s life hung by a thread. Her bleeding and blood pressure defied control.
But with Dr. Adams by her side, Sylvia lived to fight another day.
Her fight would go on for many months. Her brain was severely injured and her right arm, thigh bone, pelvis, and several vertebrae were shattered. Sylvia spent months in intensive care, most of it in a medically induced coma to relieve pressure on her brain. With part of her colon dead, Sylvia had an ileostomy in place for over nine months. Through it all, Sylvia was seen by almost every specialist at Rhode Island Hospital, from Neurology to Orthopedics to Infectious Disease. She endured 12 operations over the course of her treatment.
As grave and complex as they were, Sylvia’s injuries were nothing that Rhode Island Hospital couldn’t handle. “We learned a great deal from Sylvia’s case,” says Dr. Adams. “While her case was horrific, we do this daily. It was a regular Saturday for us.”
It took 15 months for Sylvia to relearn how to speak, walk and eat again. She recently graduated from the University of Rhode Island. She’s even driving again.
“I don’t know where I would be without Rhode Island Hospital,” Sylvia says. The doctors and the nurses are amazing – they saved my life. They helped put me back together again. It is hard to put into words the gratitude I feel.”
You can only imagine how Kenton felt. One minute, he was laughing, cheering on the Harlem Globetrotters. The next minute, his life was changed forever.
Kenton, his wife and two sons, ages 7 and 11, had traveled from their home in nearby Massachusetts to the Dunkin’ Donuts Center in Providence with their school choir. The children were singing the national anthem before the big basketball game.
Just 31 years old, Kenton had experienced a bad headache and what felt like a pinched nerve all day. But during the fourth quarter, Kenton froze, unable to move or speak. His vision blurred and his hands began to swell. The last thing Kenton remembers is his wife screaming “HELP!” Then everything went dark, as if in a dream.
But the pontine stroke Kenton had just suffered was all too real.
Fortunately, Kenton was rushed to The Stroke Center at Rhode Island Hospital, the region’s only primary stroke center within a Level I trauma center. Serving 900 patients a year, our doctors and nurses provide the immediate intervention, continued care and support that are critical to a patient’s recovery.
In fact, recently Rhode Island Hospital earned a Get with the Guidelines Stroke Silver Plus Quality Achievement Award from the American Heart Association, for a higher standard of care in treating stroke patients according to nationally accepted guidelines.
Our doctors knew exactly what to do for Kenton. They determined that a tear in the vertebral artery in Kenton’s neck had triggered a massive stroke affecting both sides of his body.
For four weeks, Kenton lay immobilized in our neuro intensive care unit. He remembers when the only way he could communicate was by blinking his eyes … kept alive by a feeding tube and a breathing tube. Round the clock caretakers specializing in the treatment of strokes tended to his every need. Kenton says it was the kindness of his Rhode Island Hospital doctors and nurses — the warmth of their words and the compassion in their faces — that gave him the strength to fight through to recovery.
Nurse Andrew Paspallo was one of them. He recalls, “I wanted Kenton to know I was going to help him through it. I like to joke with my patients -- even though I know they can’t answer me with words, I can see they get it in their eyes … it brings normalcy to the situation. And I think that’s what we all want and need, no matter what.”
Through physical and occupational therapy, including osmotic therapy to reduce brain swelling, Kenton worked hard with Andrew and his care team to regain mobility and the ability to breathe on his own. When he was strong enough, Kenton was discharged to continue his recovery at a rehabilitation center.
So you can only imagine how Elaine Amato-Vealey PhD, a nurse in the neurointensive care unit at RIH felt one day recently, when she looked up to see a young man walking down the hall past the unit desk. “May I help you?” Elaine asked.
The man responded, “I was a patient in that room a few months ago. I want to thank my doctors and nurses for bringing me back to life.” She realized it was Kenton, “looking and sounding perfect,” according to Elaine. As each nurse and physician came to see what the uproar was about, Kenton’s smile broadened. “My team of caregivers never, ever gave up on me. I knew I was in the best hands possible. Rhode Island Hospital gave me my life back.”
Vicki Paquin, was busy cleaning her home when she heard a strange loud ringing in her left ear. She became very concerned because it was a sound she had never heard before.
“I felt my right leg buckle. My speech was beginning to slur, my right arm felt like it was just hanging there. I told my husband that I thought I was having a stroke and all I could think of was the word, FAST, the acronym related to stroke...face, arm, speech and time,” said Vicki, remembering those first fearful moments.
Her husband called 911. Help arrived within minutes...and just minutes later Vicki was at Rhode Island Hospital, which has one of the finest stroke centers in the country. As the region’s only primary stroke center located in a Level 1 trauma center, Rhode Island Hospital is uniquely qualified to provide the most advanced clinical care to acute stroke patients.
In cases of stroke, speed of treatment is critical to recovery. As you probably know, strokes are caused by blood clots traveling to the brain. The more swiftly a clot can be broken up with a drug known as TPA, the better the chance the patient has of total recovery.
In Vicki’s case, she was in exactly the right place to have the best possible outcome. Literally within minutes of her arrival, the Critical Care Unit went to work to stabilize her. She was given a CAT scan and then the TPA drug was administered.
“Eventually I was brought to the Intensive Care Unit for 24 hours of observation. I was scared but the nurses were unbelievably kind and kept reassuring me that I would be fine. I spent the next six days on the Neurology floor and then returned home. It was amazing, actually quite incredible. I didn’t need physical therapy and had no ill effects from the stroke,” said the grateful patient.
Vicki is now back at work full time and she says she is feeling great.
It is important to note that since speed is so important in the treatment of a stroke, our stroke unit treats 50% of our patients in less than 60 minutes...and that is nearly twice as fast as the national average for all hospitals.
The primary stroke center is the only program to bring together physicians, nurses, and allied professionals representing neurology, neuroradiology, neurosurgery, emergency medicine, neurocritical care, medical critical care, pediatric neurology, physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech and language pathology...and more.
How important is this program to Rhode Islanders? Hundreds upon hundreds of your neighbors and friends die from a stroke each year, with a stroke being the fifth leading cause of death in the state. This year we expect to reach the goal of treating 80% of stroke patients in less than an hour in order to decrease the amount of deaths caused by a stroke and increase the chance of full recovery among stroke victims.
Meet Terry Perrotta
Imagine you’re 53 years old and are struggling to breathe. You don’t know if you will survive the night. You are devastated you may never kiss your children again.
At 53, Terry Perrotta was literally facing death. Diagnosed with a rare form of pulmonary hypertension known as pulmonary veno-occlusive disease (PVOD), her only hope for survival was a double-lung transplant. She was placed on the waiting list at the Cleveland Clinic, a center known for complicated lung transplants. But Terry’s PVOD rapidly worsened, causing an extreme increase in blood pressure in her pulmonary arteries.
She was gasping for breath, turning blue and losing consciousness when she was rushed to Rhode Island Hospital’s Emergency Department.
Terry was now sick enough to move to the top of the transplant list, but she was too medically fragile for the flight to Cleveland and the transplant surgery that would save her life. Yet in this cruel twist of fate, there was a silver lining.
Rhode Island Hospital has the first and only Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation (ECMO) machine in Rhode Island. ECMO is a system that functions similar to heart-lung bypass and does the work of the patient’s heart and lungs temporarily, allowing them to rest and recover.
When Terry was put on ECMO, her blood oxygen levels registered only a 50, about half the desirable level of 90 or above. Her two children, ages 22 and 20, were terrified they were going to lose their mother.
Dr. Muratore, director of the ECMO program at Rhode Island Hospital, calmly explained to them what would be done to buy Terry the time to get to Cleveland for the lung transplant. "ECMO is not a cure; it’s a bridge to recovery. Her lungs aren’t going to get any better, but her heart is now giving out because the lungs had already given out," said Dr. Muratore.
The question remained whether Terry could be transported to Cleveland while on ECMO. Very few facilities are equipped to handle it. Fortunately, both hospitals were able to make it work. The complicated operation to connect Terry to ECMO was successful, and her blood oxygen levels began to improve. Two days later, she was airlifted to Cleveland to get her new lungs.
"I feel such gratitude to everyone at Rhode Island Hospital. They definitely saved my life. The whole team just kept working for me, saying ‘yes, we can do this’ all along the way," Terry says. "Without ECMO, I would not be alive today. I’m grateful to be here to be a part of my children’s lives."
Your support of Rhode Island Hospital is so important to the health of our community and families like Terry's. Please consider making a gift today. As always, thank you so much for caring, for giving.