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Traveling on—thanks to lifesaving heart care

Barbara is back on the map and ready to explore the world with her husband, Bill.

Older couple sits in their dining room holding hands with a display of photographs on the table.
Barbara and her husband are world travelers—they especially enjoy visiting national parks.

Barbara Meyer, 69, knows there’s a big, beautiful world out there—and she and her husband, Bill, aim to explore as much of it as they can. The Meyers have enjoyed traveling and seeing the nation’s most beautiful sights.

“We just love to travel. We’ve been to many places in the states and in Europe—and on several cruises,” she said. The Staten Island resident was in the midst of planning a paddle wheel cruise on the Mississippi river when her husband started having trouble with his knee. Barbara said Bill couldn’t even bear weight on his leg without difficulty, so they went to get it checked out at the Staten Island University Hospital emergency department.

“Bill was being examined—he had an X-ray and was being set up for crutches,” she explained. “So I went out for a quick bite to eat and to the store, and returned to the hospital when he was being discharged. We were just about to leave when everything went black. I went into cardiac arrest right there.”

A previously undiagnosed heart condition put her into refractory ventricular fibrillation (v-fib), a serious form of heart arrhythmia that may have taken her life if she hadn’t happened to be standing in the middle of the emergency room when it occurred. Luckily, emergency physicians Dr. Elias Youssef and Dr. Rodrigo Kong, along with the department’s residency team, were able to work quickly, performing advanced cardiac life support and reviving her.

“The residents worked beautifully as a team. They immediately intubated Barbara, obtained central access and worked in synchrony with the nurses, giving medications and performing CPR,” Dr. Kong stated. “They performed like a team that has worked together for 20 years—they were the real stars.”

Older woman sitting on a chair in her living room, looking out the window.
A grateful Barbara is happy to be alive—every day is a gift.

Barbara said the team saved her life that day. And she is grateful to all of the doctors at Staten Island University Hospital for the amazing care she received on that day and in the months since. 

“After I blacked out, I was admitted to the hospital. They did all kinds of testing and Dr. Rina Shah, the electrophysiologist, placed an automated implantable cardioverter defibrillator (AICD). It’s kind of like a pacemaker but it can shock my heart back into beating if it goes into arrest,” she said.

That implant ended up saving Barbara’s life not once, not twice, but three times more in the months to follow. About two weeks after being discharged from the hospital, she started to experience feelings of weakness and lightheadedness while recuperating at home. She unexpectedly went into cardiac arrest there.

“Having the defibrillator already in me was such a blessing,” she said. “My husband called the ambulance and then, as I was entering the emergency room, my heart stopped again—luckily the defibrillator kicked in. The team in the emergency department determined that I needed a cardiac ablation, which creates scar tissue in the heart to fix the short circuit. Then, while waiting to get the ablation, my heart stopped a third time, but it was shocked back into beating again.”

An older woman smiles on the stairs in her home as she leans on the hand railing.
After a quick recovery, Barbara is feeling like herself again.

After the ablation procedure was complete, and she had some time to get back on her feet, Barbara is finally starting to feel like herself again. She said she’s happy to be getting back into her normal routine.

“I walk 30 minutes daily up and down my street. I really am getting stronger every day,” she said. “I’m back to playing bridge and returning to my other social activities, too. And, of course, I’m enjoying spending time with my family.”

But she said what she is most looking forward to is getting back out there and traveling again. Next up? That paddle wheel cruise. “It goes from Minneapolis down to St. Louis on the river—we can’t wait,” she said. 

Barbara is grateful to the physicians and emergency staff at Staten Island University Hospital for helping to bring her back to normal. She gives kudos to the entire team—especially Dr. Shah for suggesting the implanted defibrillator that has now saved her life over and over again.

“Everyone took such good care of me. They answered all my questions and were all just so caring. Honestly, each nurse was just more caring than the next,” she said. “They really did so many things to help bring me back to my life.”

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