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Sylvia Miller, 86, Works Out Three Times a Week – And it May Have Recently Saved Her Life


Brenda-Rich Pike, exercise physiologist (left) and Carol Artiaco, RN (right) with Sylvia Miller of Brooklyn, CT at Day Kimball Hospital's Cardiopulmonary Rehabilitation medically-supervised exercise program.
Brenda-Rich Pike, exercise physiologist (left) and Carol Artiaco, RN (right) with Sylvia Miller of Brooklyn, CT at Day Kimball Hospital's Cardiopulmonary Rehabilitation medically-supervised exercise program.

How many people can say they faithfully exercise at least three times a week? 

Eighty-six year old Sylvia Miller of Brooklyn, CT can. She and her husband Robert have been going to the Cardiopulmonary Rehabilitation medically-supervised exercise program at Day Kimball Hospital for a couple of years, on the recommendation of their cardiologist, Dr. William Bradbury. That habit may have very likely saved her life just a couple of months ago.

It was December 28, a Wednesday, and Sylvia and Robert headed to the hospital to exercise as they always did on Wednesdays. But, Sylvia recalls, she wasn’t feeling quite right.

“I had felt short of breath for a few days and had very low energy,” she says. “But it was holiday time and I kept thinking, it’s just a difficult, busy time.” 

When Sylvia and Robert arrived at cardiac rehab, it didn’t take long for Brenda Rich-Pike, exercise physiologist, Colette Cote, RN and Carol Artiaco, RN, clinical coordinator for the cardiac rehab program, to notice something was amiss. Sylvia explained to Brenda how she’d been feeling. Carol put a monitor on Sylvia to check her oxygen levels and to monitor her heart rate. 

With minimal physical exertion Sylvia’s heart rate was very high. Carol called and consulted with Dr. Paul Matty, Sylvia’s primary care doctor and with Dr. Bradbury, and it was decided that Sylvia should be brought to the Emergency Department. 

“Carol wheeled me in a wheelchair to the Emergency Department. It was very scary but it was also just great treatment,” Sylvia says.

There, the unthinkable was discovered – Sylvia was suffering from multiple pulmonary embolisms, which are potentially fatal blood clots in the lungs. 

She was treated with medicines to dissolve the clots and then admitted to the Intensive Care Unit at Day Kimball Hospital for five days, before being transferred to Westview Health Care Center in Dayville for another 10 days of recovery and rehabilitation. 

Two months later, Sylvia is slowly getting back to normal, with a new and greater appreciation for what the exercise program and the clinical staff has done for her health and her life.

“I had all those clots in my body that I didn’t’ even know were there…I think the fact that I was taken [to the emergency department] as quickly as I was, is what saved me,” Sylvia says.

But it wasn’t just the quick action on the day the embolisms were discovered that Sylvia credits for saving her life. 

“I most definitely feel much healthier for getting into that program in the first place and I think that helped me greatly to survive and to do so well after this,” she says. “I was amazed at how weak one becomes after being down for a few days. If I’d been a more sedentary person I don’t think it would have gone as well.”

With the scary experience behind her, Sylvia says she couldn’t be more grateful for the care she received, from her nurses at cardiac rehab to the staff at the hospital’s Emergency Department and Intensive Care Unit, to the staff at Westview Health Care Center.

“I just want to give all of them a lot of credit for what they did for me. I really am very grateful for all of the care. For Dr. Bradbury getting my husband and I into the exercise program in the first place. And Carol and Brenda and all the cardiac rehab nurses are just the greatest. They were like family members when I was hospitalized and at Westview, coming to visit and check on me. They’re a great caring group,” Sylvia says.

She says she’s also thankful that that kind of care was available close to home. 

“I’m very grateful that I haven’t had to travel for any of my care; I was hoping I didn’t have to be transferred anywhere else. It was nice being cared for locally and it was excellent care at both Day Kimball and at Westview,” she says.

As for what’s next, Sylvia is seeing a hematologist at Day Kimball Hospital to help discover and treat what caused her clots. She’s taking short walks to build her strength back up. She’s looking forward to returning full-steam to her exercise program at the hospital. 

She also has some words of advice for others her age, and those who are younger:

“I think about it now, and I wish that I had started earlier in my life doing the exercises, but it’s never too late. Get into an exercise program if you’re not already in one and listen to your body, and just have the desire to be healthier. Keep everything moving.”

“Start with the little things, there are so many exercises, even to sit and do them, which is how I started out at rehab, so nothing needs to hurt. And it’s fun. You feel good once you get the blood flowing and the oxygen levels where they should be. I’m going back to exercise this coming Monday, and hopefully this will all have a good ending. It’s just good to be alive.”


Related Resources

Specialty Care: Cardiopulmonary Rehabilitation 
Specialty Care: Cardiology
Day Kimball Hospital: Townsend Emergency Medical Center
Day Kimball Hospital: Intensive Care Unit

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