On the worst day of Jane Stine’s life, she had two heart attacks, a torn iliac artery, and two blocked arteries in the midst of a hail storm. The weather was so bad she couldn’t be transported by helicopter from the community hospital where she was slipping away. With air transport grounded, an ambulance sped Jane—who lives in Mifflinburg—to UPMC Susquehanna Williamsport where a team of experts was waiting.
Already on a breathing machine and a failing heart pump, Jane’s last hope for survival involved cardiothoracic surgeon Michael Lazar, MD; interventional cardiologist Leslie Webb, MD; and a lifesaving piece of equipment known as ECMO—extracorporeal membrane oxygenation. Buying time for doctors to treat Jane, the ECMO machine pumped her blood to an artificial lung, and, with the force of a healthy heart, sent oxygenated blood back to her body.
Jane’s daughter Natalie Laukaitis rushed 35 miles from Mifflinburg to Williamsport to be with her mother. When she arrived, Natalie was met by Dr. Lazar who explained her mother’s condition and possible treatments. While Jane remained on ECMO, Dr. Lazar would perform cardiac bypass surgery.
“I said to Dr. Lazar, ‘Whether my mom walks out that door or goes home to be with the Lord, I know you did the best you could for her,’” Natalie recalls.
Following the success of Dr. Lazar’s procedure, Dr. Webb and vascular surgeon Karla Anderson, MD, performed a 4.5-hour procedure on Jane to open her two blocked arteries.
“When Dr. Webb came out, you could tell she was exhausted,” Natalie says. “She said, ‘Well, Natalie, I think we got it. I’ll be up to check on her. She’s a fighter.’ The patient-focused care for my mom was amazing. When you’re in that situation, you don’t think of these things. You just take it minute by minute, but the caregivers are always planning ahead.”
Because of how sick Jane had been, she likes to joke her providers received their medical education from her. “Not a day goes by that my name isn’t mentioned by the cardiac team,” Jane chuckles. “When they have a severe patient, they can say, ‘Let me tell you a story about someone who should not have survived—and did.”
On the day Jane left the hospital, the members of her care team lined the hallways. They cheered for her as she was wheeled by and presented posters of encouragement signed by the entire team.
“I want to thank them for all they had to put up with,” Jane says. “I just want to thank them all so much!”
“That’s how much support she had there,” Natalie adds. “They’d all grown to love us, and she loves them. It’s just amazing the care that we received there. From her doctors, nurses, and therapists to the cleaning staff, we love them all. They are truly wonderful people. I will never take her anywhere else.”
UPMC Susquehanna’s Heart and Vascular Institute offers ECMO and advanced cardiothoracic surgery in Williamsport, and was recognized with the American College of Cardiology’s NCDR ACTION Registry Gold Performance Achievement Award for 2018 for excellence in heart attack care. UPMC Susquehanna is one of only 37 hospitals nationwide to receive the honor. To learn more about our services, visit UPMCSusquehanna.org/Heart.