On January 30, 2013, at only 48 years of age, Angie suffered a massive heart attack. She was rushed to a local hospital where doctors placed stents in her heart. 12 days later, on the day Angie was due to be discharged, the stents collapsed and she was life-flighted to the University of Pennsylvania Hospital in Philadelphia.
Of the three patients to undergo open heart surgery that day, Angie was the only one to survive.
Her family’s relief was short-lived, however. Angie suffered an allergic reaction to heparin, a drug used to prevent blood clots. During surgery, she suffered heparin-induced thrombocytopenia (HIT) and kidney failure, and within days, would lose both legs, amputated below the knees.
“I was told that I died three times during surgery. When the doctor told me that they would have to amputate both of my legs, I really questioned why I had been brought back. I didn’t want to face the future.”
Over the course of the next few months, Angie would spend time in an inpatient rehabilitation unit and a skilled nursing center. Her friends and family surrounded her with love, giving her the strength to endure significant weight loss, hair loss, a tracheotomy, feeding tubes and the loss of the life she once knew.
In July, Angie was admitted to Heinz Rehab Hospital in Wilkes-Barre Twp.
“I begged to go to Heinz and when I got there, I finally started to get my life back.”
Soon, Angie was learning to walk on her prosthetics. She recalls the other patients in the therapy gym cheering for her as she took her first steps on her new legs. One month later, Angie was discharged.
Despite the initial relief at being home, Angie felt helpless and overwhelmed by everyday tasks that were now a huge challenge. She laughs now, but on her first night at home, unfamiliar with her prosthetics, she was unable to get up from her sofa.
That’s when she and her husband Joe turned to Allied Services Home Health.
For the next three months, Jacqueline Zukosky visited Angie in her home. An Occupational Therapist with 27 years of experience at Allied Services, Jacqueline taught Angie how to care for herself, from showering and dressing, to cooking and using the washer and dryer.
Dominic Dalmas, an Allied Services Home Health Physical Therapist, taught Angie how to maneuver safely around her home, including climbing the stairs inside and outside her home.
Angie remembers the day Dominic helped her to take her first steps outside, how it felt to breathe in the fresh air and hear the birds singing.
“It’s easy for others to tell you not to give up. Jackie and Dominic actually gave me the tools to do things for myself again. They went above and beyond to help me rebuild my life. I can’t thank them enough.”
Angie still requires dialysis treatments three days a week. The treatments are painful and sap her energy the next day, but despite this, she feels grateful to be able to walk into her appointments, unaided. She recently began the process of registering for a kidney transplant and is hopeful that a long-time friend will be a match. Ironically, her potential donor is a long-time Allied employee.
Angie’s cousins recently visited from her home country of Lebanon and were shocked to see her walking after all that has happened.
Today, she is treasuring her second chance at life, grateful for her family, friends and faith. She recently joined in the traditional dance at a cousin’s Lebanese wedding reception, and was there to celebrate as her nieces and nephews attended school proms. She’s reveling in being back in her kitchen, baking for friends and family, and when the weather allows, enjoys time on the patio that Joe and her brother George built for her.
In the past year, she’s been back to Allied Services for outpatient physical therapy and is constantly working towards a more active future.
“I have goals today, like walking on a treadmill and driving again. Allied gave me that. ”