In 2010, I was at my home in Norfolk when I began to feel dizzy and passed out. Fortunately, my sister was there and called an ambulance.
Dr. Betty Chidester, an assistant professor of emergency medicine at EVMS, was on duty in the emergency department at Sentara Leigh Hospital when they brought me in. Dr. Chidester told me later that when she first saw me, I was not breathing on my own and my heart had stopped.
I had suffered a massive pulmonary embolism. Twice more my heart stopped beating – the last time for nearly 30 minutes. Each time, under Dr. Chidester’s guidance, the emergency team was able to restart my heart. She later told me that I could only say, “I can’t breathe. Please don’t let me die.”
I was in the hospital for 18 days. I know that Dr. Chidester and her team saved my life. I am grateful to her, to the emergency technicians and other hospital personnel who performed CPR and kept me alive. During my recovery, I was fortunate to be cared for by two other EVMS providers, Dr. Jennifer L. Ryal, assistant professor of internal medicine, and Dr. Serina A. Neumann, associate professor of psychology.
Dr. Chidester visited me about 2 weeks after the ER treatment. The last thing she said as she left was “Now I’m going to go home and cry.” I took that to mean that she was both gratified with the results of treatment and maybe a little overwhelmed. I don’t think she expected me to live or that if I did live that it would be with brain damage. She is a very special person.
I am an EVMS employee and I’ve always felt a sense of community here and even more so after being cared for by EVMS physicians. But it was not just EVMS health care providers who helped me – faculty and staff throughout the school also helped with my recovery through their visits and encouraging messages. I found I have more friends than I ever knew at EVMS. This experience has given me a whole new perspective on life.
Susan Conner (left) and Dr. Chidester (right)
Betty B. Chidester, M.D. Department of Emergency Medicine