Critical Transfer & Team Care Save a Young Mother's Life

Vol. 15, No. 1
Summer 2005

  • New Ambulatory Surgery Center Matches Convenience with Peace-of-Mind

  • Immunotherapy Spells Relief for Severe Allergy Sufferers

  • War on Tumors Escalates

  • High-Dose Radiation Battles Gynecological Cancers without Hospitalization

  • 'Diga Si'

  • Critical Transfer & Team Care Save a Young Mother's Life

  • Winthrop Welcomes New Twigs Leadership

  • Cardiac Rehab Program Changes Lives, Helps Hearts Heal

  • Hundreds Play a Round to Support Institute for Family Care

  • Two Options Enable Osteoporosis Patients to Stand Straighter without Excruciating Pain

  • Quality of Life Stepped Up after Two Knee Replacements

  • Most Advanced MRI Creates Superior Visualizations of Bone & Soft Tissue

  • A Night at the Opera ~ Big Voices for Precious Children

  • It's never too soon to say ThankYou!

  • Once again, Winthrop ranked one of America's best hospitals

  • Mom Shares Courageous Story with TLC Viewers

  • Congresswoman McCarthy Recognizes Winthrop's Achievement, Tours Facilities

    Back to Publications

  • "I wasn't going to let a sinus infection ruin my Labor Day weekend plans," recalls Heather Cosel-Pieper. Having arranged for a few days off from work at the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, she packed up the antibiotics a primary physician had prescribed two days prior, and traveled out to the east end of Long Island along with her husband, Michael, and 20-month-old son, Colby.

    But things did not go as planned. While on vacation, she developed a high fever, nausea and loss of appetite. With her symptoms worsening, she and her family returned home, where she went to a local emergency room. There she was ordered a sinus CAT scan, then prescribed stronger antibiotics and painkillers, and sent home.

    Once home, her condition rapidly deteriorated. "I went severely downhill later that day," she explained. "I wasn't particularly lucid, and had episodes of involuntary shaking."

    The next day, she returned to the ER where she was quarantined and underwent a spinal tap. "I was told I had viral meningitis; prescribed more painkillers along with medicines to help break the fever, and sent home again," she explained. Shortly thereafter, she was back at her local hospital where she was admitted and her condition deteriorated further.

    Three days later she was transferred to Winthrop's new Neurological Intensive Care Unit.

    "We wanted her at a hospital that could provide a higher level of care, and Winthrop was that hospital," explained Donna Cosel-Pieper, Heather's mother. "That transfer saved her life."

    Heather Cosel-Pieper (third from left) with (left to right) Karin Antaky, RN; her husband Michael; Dr. Wirkowski; and her parents Barry and Donna.
    A model of high-tech medicine, Winthrop's 14-bed neurological unit provides patients, who have suffered brain trauma due to a stroke, aneurysm or debilitating head injury, with the most comprehensive and advanced, intensive neurological care. Staffed by highly skilled physicians, physician assistants and nurses -- all specially trained in the care of neurological disorders, all needs areeeers, all needs are areeeee met with the highest level of patient care.

    It was not until she was transferred to Winthrop that the doctors realized that she had an unusual viral infection of both her brain and heart -- what clinicians refer to as viral encephalitis and cardiomyopathy. Days later, she slipped into a coma.

    The Cosel-Piepers won't soon forget the team of Winthrop specialists, who quickly began treating her condition more aggressively. Suspecting a cerebral aneurysm, the team ordered brain imaging and a cerebral angiogram before performing surgery to relieve pressure on her brain. But that didn't stop her vital organs from shutting down.

    Her family prepared for the worst. Yet, the words of one doctor, Elzbieta Wirkowski, MD, Director of Cerebrovascular Disorders: "Where there is life, there is hope," gave the family strength.

    "Those words have gone through my head thousands of times," said Mrs. Cosel-Pieper. "She never gave us false hope, but at least she allowed us to have hope."

    "The fact that she survived a catastrophic insult to her brain and other vital systems is miraculous, but to recover without any loss of cognitive function is the real miracle," explained Barry Cosel-Pieper, Heather's father.

    Her parents can't believe how close she came to death, insisting Winthrop gave Heather her life and her health back.

    "How can you adequately thank someone for not only saving your daughter's life, but preserving the quality of life she had before her illness," explained Mrs. Cosel-Pieper. "There are no words that can ever express our gratitude."

    "I'm so grateful for not only the level of care, but also the compassion that the Winthrop staff expressedat the Winthrop staff expressedsededddd," added Heather. "This concern transcended the ranks of the Hospital personnel, and I can honestly say that the nurses' aides and transporters were just as integral to the quality of my care as were the physicians, like Dr. Wirkowski, whom my family specifically attributes to saving my life."

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