When 55-year-old Sharon Young of Wappingers Falls was transported to the Emergency Room at MidHudson Regional Hospital of Westchester Medical Center last August, the last thing she expected was a two-month stay in the Intensive Care Unit. Having had an esophagectomy a month and a half prior, Young was supposed to have been on the other side of a bout with esophageal cancer.
Young’s saga began in January of 2014, when she was diagnosed with esophageal cancer and told to seek treatment in Manhattan. Chemotherapy was followed by radiation, which culminated in an esophagectomy that removed half of her stomach and a portion of her lower esophagus. Complications ensued right away: After a second surgery to repair a leak at the surgery site, Young fell ill and couldn’t keep any food down. She collapsed and was rushed to MidHudson Regional Hospital via ambulance. There, she received the top-notch care she had hoped for in the city.
Young came under the care of Thoracic Surgeon Darren Rohan, MD. Her condition was worse than even she had imagined: infected fluid filled her lungs; she had pneumonia; her heart rate was soaring at 180 beats per minute, reluctant to slow; and she was in need of a blood transfusion and a respirator. “I was pretty sure she wasn’t going to make it,” reflects Dr. Rohan, who pegged her survival at 20 percent.
“In order to control the infection, I had to immediately bring her to the operating room, and we had to open her chest and clean out the infected fluid,” explains Dr. Rohan.
“We left in a couple of drains and from that point on, a lot of her care was nursing in the ICU. We had to take care of her while her body fought off her infection.” Young underwent follow-up operations (a tracheostomy) and a long period of careful oversight. Luckily, her family was by her side through it all.
“My family is so supportive, and that’s the one thing I want to say—the doctors were so good with them,” says Young. “They sat with them and explained everything they were doing. Dr. Rohan would say, ‘I want to try to do this,’ and he’d explain exactly why. It was just amazing.”
Young beat the infection by October, and though he was instrumental in her recovery, Dr. Rohan won’t take the credit for it: “The doctors and nurses who took care of her day in and day out are the ones who got her through. Surgery sometimes is kind of glamorous, but it doesn’t guarantee success.” He points to the ability of the staff at Westchester Medical Center’s network of hospitals to treat the region’s sickest patients and trauma victims as key to Young’s outcome: “It’s that experience that really helps when someone like Sharon comes in, to be able to look at all her functions, all her systems, and find a way to manage everything long enough for her to fight this and get better.”
“I feel lucky I ended up there,” reflects Young, who was moved from the hospital to rehabilitation in October of 2014 (she went home in February), and who retired from a 34-year career at Downstate Correctional Facility in April. “I feel God really intervened and put amazing doctors in my path. They took such good care of me. It was as if I was their own family.”
If she could, would she have come to MidHudson Regional Hospital right off the bat? “Without a doubt. I was told that for my surgery I would have to go to the city, that they do more of those operations. But the man who ended up saving me was right here at MidHudson.”