"If it weren't for COVID-19, I probably wouldn't have been here today," said Bridgett Lyman. "I don't want to say it, but it's true." These are the words no one would ever expect to hear. Navigating life during the pandemic was a tough time, and it significantly impacted many individuals. For Bridgett Lyman, it was a time that saved her life.
Lyman chose not to go to the doctor because it wasn't affordable for her. She knew something was wrong but ignored the symptoms until she got sick with COVID-19. After being treated and released from the hospital, she was asked to follow up with a primary care physician.
"I had no clue what was going on. I was a smoker, so I had chronic bronchitis because of that, and I was also diagnosed with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)," Lyman said. "I had trouble breathing and could hardly walk from my front door to my car daily, and it was progressing. I just knew that there were things going on, but without any insurance to see a physician, I didn't realize how severe things were until then."
Lyman's initial visit to the Emergency Department for COVID-19 helped her begin to find comfort in seeing a physician if she wasn't feeling well. This was a decision that saved her life. About seven months after her COVID-19 diagnosis, a feeling she thought was just indigestion turned out to be a heart attack, and the physician told her that if she had waited another hour or two, she wouldn't be here.
"Lyman had coronary artery disease, which is blockage of the arteries to the heart," Ganesh Kumpati, MD, Medical Director of Cardiothoracic Surgery, said. "She initially presented with a heart attack and had stents placed to the completely blocked artery."
Lyman had four stents placed on the back left of her heart and two placed on the right. Three months after getting her stents, she returned to have surgery to repair the remaining blocked arteries. Dr. Kumpati said that the surgery was a minimally invasive coronary artery bypass grafting through the left ribs rather than the sternum.
"After having my procedure, my feet, legs, and hands didn't have the numb, tingly, prickly feeling like they were falling asleep, and they weren't as cold as they were before," Lyman said
"I was determined to improve my health because my biggest motivation is my family. I have four kids and 12 grandchildren, and I'd love to see my grandchildren graduate high school and have families of their own one day."
Lyman is now six months post-surgery and still working to recover. The recovery process may take a while, but she is slowly healing. To help her journey toward healing, she is working with the JPS Health Network Cardiac Rehab team.
"They told me that it would probably be at least a year before I start feeling a major difference and being able to do the things I couldn't," Lyman said. "I am now in cardiac rehab, which is important because it lays the groundwork to begin exercising, so I can get back in shape and build my body and muscle mass back up. They also teach you how to maintain your dietary needs to maintain your weight to help prevent diabetes, which can also lead to heart attacks."
Through Lyman's medical journey, she has been treated by many JPS team members, showing the multidisciplinary teamwork it takes to provide exceptional care to each patient.
“Lyman’s experience shows how team members from across the network work together to save and care for a patient. She had experience with multiple areas in the healthcare system – admission to the ED…” Dr. Kumpati said. “This shows just how important it is for the entire multidisciplinary care team to be in sync.”
Lyman had a difficult road to get where she is, but despite her circumstance, she stays positive because she believes that you have to keep going no matter what, and being here to see her family succeed is her priority.
"I live by the motto, ‘no pain, no gain,'" Lyman said. "I have always been a strong person. I struggled through high school because of my learning disability and barely graduated. Still, I proudly walked across that stage, so I was determined to improve my health because my biggest motivation is my family. I have four kids and 12 grandchildren, and I'd love to see my grandchildren graduate high school and have families of their own one day."