Carolyn BrownAt 73 years old, Carolyn Brown still enjoys life to the fullest. Living in Sumter with her husband Joe, she loves spending time in her garden and often visits her local senior center.

One morning, while Carolyn was attending an event at the senior center, she began to feel sick. She drove herself to the local clinic to make sure everything was alright. There, after checking her vitals and examining her symptoms, Carolyn was told her pain was most likely due to a viral infection. She was given a prescription for antibiotics then sent on her way.

The next day, Carolyn still hadn't recovered from the uneasy feeling she had. With her husband by her side, she decided to go to the hospital. They performed an EKG and compared the results with one taken a few months prior.  It was at that point that they realized something was terribly wrong.

For Carolyn, the events that followed are a hazy memory. The last thing she remembers is hearing the doctor say, "Get her to the Heart Hospital as fast as possible, fly her if you have to." Shortly after, Carolyn was rushed by ambulance to Palmetto Health Heart Hospital where surgeon Dr. Jeffery Martin, of Carolina Cardiac Surgery Associates, was expecting her arrival.

Dr. Martin told Carolyn she suffered two heart attacks, causing a large hole to form in her heart. "He said he'd never had a patient with a hole in their heart," says Carolyn. "It's a very rare condition; hardly any doctors ever see it."

The hole found in Carolyn's heart is known as a Ventricular Septal Defect, or VSD. The hole occurs in the wall that separates the left and right sides of the heart. In adults, this condition is extremely rare and is a dangerous complication of a heart attack.

Dr. Martin performed emergency open-heart surgery to mend Carolyn's heart. The procedure involved using surrounding tissue to patch the hole. Eventually, the patch will grow into a permanent part of the heart. "The operating staff was above average. They saved my life," says Carolyn. "I think of Palmetto Health Heart Hospital as an excellent hospital with excellent doctors and excellent equipment."

Repairing a VSD is extremely dangerous and carries a high risk of death. Carolyn says, "If I didn't have a first rate hospital and first rate doctors, I don't think that I would be here today."

Today, Carolyn will tell you she's alive thanks to the extraordinary care she received at Palmetto Health Heart Hospital. It's been almost a year and Carolyn is back to tending to her garden and enjoying spending time with her family. She says, "I honestly can't say enough about them. You talk about heroes... I think heroes are people who save somebody's life."


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