Giving back after getting a second chance

Heart attack survivor Sue Young is organizing a fund-raiser dance Feb. 3 for the American Heart Association

By Jim McGaw
Posted 1/30/23

PORTSMOUTH — Sue Young still remembers the date when her life was thrown upside down: Nov. 23, 2012. At the time, she was a healthy and busy 57-year-old.

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Giving back after getting a second chance

Heart attack survivor Sue Young is organizing a fund-raiser dance Feb. 3 for the American Heart Association

Posted

PORTSMOUTH — Sue Young still remembers the date when her life was thrown upside down: Nov. 23, 2012. At the time, she was a healthy and busy 57-year-old.

“I was a very active ballroom dance instructor, Zumba instructor — not sitting around and doing the couch potato kind of stuff. And then, I went to a birthday party for a friend of mine,” she said.

Young videotaped her friend dancing, and then the next thing she knew she was in the lady’s room.

“I had gotten sick, and she was in there with me to check on what was going on. Ultimately I was having a heart attack, and then she called EMTs. I don’t remember speaking with them at all.”

Her friend remembered, though. Young had told the paramedics that she had pain running down her arm and in her jaw. She had her first sudden cardiac arrest in the ambulance. Young was lucky she had such quick intervention, she said, as only 10 percent of patients survive after their heart stops.

It got worse. On her way to the hospital in Massachusetts, she suffered a second cardiac arrest, prompting paramedics to re-route her to Morton Hospital ER in Taunton. 

“At that point I’m in a coma. They did a lot of testing and decided to send me to Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston.”

Before the ambulance ride, Young underwent what’s called a hyperthermic protocol. “They cool your body temperature down to 50 degrees, so they literally pack you in ice. It slows all your body functions down in an attempt to save brain power and other organ functions. For me, it was successful. I do have some ‘sloppy brain’ now and then, but I always blame it on my cardiac arrests.”

In Boston, Young had a stent inserted and went through another battery of tests. “They found that I had a coronary anomaly; (my) arteries branch off and come around the back of the heart as opposed to branching off the heart and floating where they should be. I might have never known that if I didn’t end up with heart disease.”

She remembers the medical students who would come in her hospital room to “meet the lady with the funny heart.”

Ultimately, doctors performed a double bypass surgery on Young. She was fortunate, she said, that her attending physician was Dr. Bradly Maron, who came from a family of well-known Boston cardiologists.

“It was a tough recovery for sure,” Young said, but when she came out of her coma she told Dr. Maron she’d make it back on the dance floor.

And she did. She teaches ballroom dance and a Zumba Gold class at the CFP Arts, Wellness and Community Center in Common Fence Point. 

“Since then I’ve been great. I’m pretty much back to my old self. It took a little time, but it’s OK. My abilities are really good. I do have those moments, though. My son will say to me, ‘You told me that already,’ and I used to say, ‘I died twice, you know. What do you want from me?’”

Feb. 3 dance

To celebrate her 10-plus years of recovery, Young is hosting a fund-raiser for the American Heart Association (AHA) at the CFP Arts, Wellness and Community Center in Common Fence Point from 6-10 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 3. (February is American Heart Month.) Tickets are $55.

Attendees will dance to the sounds of the New Providence Big Band, nibble on heart-healthy hors d’oeuvres and canapés, and enjoy drinks and “mocktails.”

Guests are asked to include some red in their wardrobe since the event is celebrating the AHA’s Go Red for Women initiative, a comprehensive platform designed to increase women’s heart health awareness and serve as a catalyst for change to improve the lives of women globally.

If you can’t make the event, take advantage of two other ballroom dance programs Young is involved in at the CFP hall. There’s a social ballroom dance from 7-10 p.m. on the first Friday of every month, and people ages 55 and older can take a ballroom dance class from 4:15-5:15 p.m. every Wednesday for just $6 a class.

For more information about events going on at the CFP Arts, Wellness and Community Center, visit commonfencepoint.org.

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