For months, Maya Thornton watched with admiration as New Yorkers paid loving tribute to hero health care workers who defended the city against the ravages of COVID-19.
But it wasn’t until the 42-year-old Manhattan woman nearly died last month from an unexpected heart blockage that she really understood what all the fuss was about.
Thornton did not have coronavirus. In the days after Thanksgiving she suffered a severe pulmonary embolism that sent her into cardiac arrest and caused her heart to briefly stop.
By the time she got to the hospital, her liver and kidneys were failing, and she was only able to breathe with the help of a ventilator and heart-stimulating medication.
Thornton’s condition was so severe that heart surgeons determined surgery to remove clots from her arteries was too dangerous.
Instead, they put her on a high-tech machine that pumps oxygen through the blood. Seven days later Thornton walked out of Mount Sinai Morningside Hospital feeling no worse for wear.
In other words, she’s a living holiday miracle.
“The last thing I remember was being in the ambulance,” Thornton said. “That was Sunday. My next memory was Wednesday. I’m still learning everything that happened to me.”
Thornton, a researcher at Viacom, said she was home Nov. 29 in her Hell’s Kitchen apartment when she suddenly felt dizzy and fell to the floor. She managed to reach out to a friend to call 911 before she passed out and had the presence of mind to keep her door open in case she was unconscious when help arrived.
Paramedics rushed her to Mount Sinai West, where she went into cardiac arrest, Her heart briefly stopped. Later, she was transferred to Mount Sinai Morningside, where in less than 24 hours Thornton received seven units of blood to keep her alive. Doctors said the average adult’s body has at least eight units of blood.
“She perked up in just an amazing way,” said Dr. Omar Lattouf, the cardiovascular surgeon who monitored Thornton’s care. “She made a 180-degree turnaround and full recovery. In seven days she went from near death to the picture of health.”
Thornton is rebuilding her endurance, and her mother flew in from California to help take care of her during her recovery through the holidays. The pandemic had kept them apart for much of the year, so Thornton said something good came out of the ordeal.
Something else came out of it, too. Thornton said she gained a new level of appreciation for the doctors and nurses on the front lines of a global medical crisis.
“I always had a respect for them,” Thornton said. “But this just took it to another level. I’m grateful that there were hospital beds, that there was space for me. There were nurses and doctors available. They were just kind caring patient people, every single one of them.”