NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ- After surviving a serious heart attack in June, Somerset resident Tamara D’Ambra recently returned to the hospital to personally thank the team of Mobile Health Services professionals, physicians and nurses at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital and Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School for giving her a second chance at life.
“It takes a special person to do what you do and your families must be so proud of you. You gave me back my family, without you I wouldn’t be alive,” Tamara told the health care team that assembled in the hospital’s auditorium recently. “When raising our children, we can only hope they make good choices and all of you have made a very good one (by choosing this field.) Thanks to you I am alive. I am here and I am okay.”
A mother of three, Tamara had chest pains, began sweating profusely and experienced severe nausea while at home on June 13. Her husband Vito called 911 and gave her an aspirin immediately. Paramedics, emergency medical technicians and Franklin Township police arrived within minutes.
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While on route to the hospital, paramedics needed to use a defibrillator three times to revive her heart. Emergency Department personnel had to do the same three times when she arrived at RWJ and her physician was required to do so one more time while Tamara was being treated in the hospital’s cardiac catheterization laboratory. Eventually, doctors inserted a stent to open the blocked artery which contributed to her heart attack.
Surviving a heart attack after being revived seven times isn’t common, according to Alpesh Patel, MD, an Attending Interventional Cardiologist at RWJ, who inserted the stent to open Tamara’s blocked artery. Dr. Patel, who is a member the 24/7 Heart and Vascular Specialist practice in Kendall Park, cared for Tamara with Abel E. Moreyra, MD, Professor of Medicine at Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School and Medical Director of the Cardiac Catheterization Laboratory at RWJ New Brunswick.
“It’s rare that you use the defibrillator seven times and the person survives. Time is of the essence and if you are in the right place at the right time with access to a defibrillator we can achieve success,” Dr. Patel noted. “It’s extremely gratifying to see someone like her take their second chance at life and use it well. It looks like she will make a difference with the second chance she was given.”
After several days in the hospital, Tamara returned home and is taking several medications to lower her blood pressure and cholesterol while following a modified diet low in sodium and fat. She has trouble finding the right words to express the gratitude she has for the Mobile Health Services team, doctors and nurses who saved her life.
“How do you thank someone who gave your children their mother back?” Tamara said. “I know that they do not do their jobs for recognition, but these people saved my life and brought me back to my family. They deserve recognition.”
Her husband Vito added, “I want to extend a big thanks to Victoria Choudhury (Nurse Manager of RWJ’s Critical Cardiac Care Unit). With three kids at home, she always assured me that everything was going to be okay and encouraged me to go home, get some rest and care for my family. I always felt my wife was in great hands.”
Emergency Medical Technicians and Paramedics often don’t have the opportunity to meet the patients they assist or know what the outcome of a given case is. They are often summoned to a new call immediately after completing one.
“It’s not something you encounter very often. But it means a lot to us to have a positive outcome and see the patient doing well and meet their family,” said Jeff Lucas, one of the paramedics with RWJ’s Mobile Health Services who helped save Tamara’s life. “It reminds you of why you put in all the hours and complete all of the training required.”
Once she recovers fully from her heart attack, Tamara would like to return to work as a paraprofessional for a local school district, a position she held in the past.
“I have a second chance now and I am convinced I will make a difference with it,” she explained. “Every birthday is my first and every holiday is my first now thanks to everyone at RWJ.