Charley Bednarsh - Don’t Die of Doubt
Charley Bednarsh is a mom of two adult sons, and grandmother to three granddaughters, ages 15 years, 12 years, and 14 months. Charley is Director Of Children’s Services at the Brooklyn Family Justice Center (BKFJC); Charley’s dog, Atticus, is an 85 lb. Australian Labradoodle, who is a registered therapy dog providing support for the youngest victims/witnesses of gender-based violence served at the BKFJC. Charley is also an American Heart Association volunteer, aiding with the Association’s new Don’t Die of Doubt campaign. Don’t Die of Doubt is supported nationally by Medtronic.
When asked what I did during New York City’s COVID pandemic, my reply is, “I broke a tooth and suffered a heart attack.” I quickly add, “The two events were unrelated and not necessarily in that order.”
By way of background info, I live in Lower Manhattan, NYC, with my 85lb Australian Labradoodle, Atticus, a therapy dog who accompanies me to work.
In mid-March, when NYC shut down due to the pandemic, I began working remotely. Signs prominently displayed “New York Tough” and the images of overcrowded NYC hospitals were heart-wrenching. By April, screeching sirens and flashing emergency vehicle lights were relentless, serving as grim reminders of the deadly virus lurking outside.
In December 2019, I had been diagnosed with pneumonia. In February, I developed pain across my upper back, accompanied by shortness of breath upon exertion. During March and April, my discomfort worsened. Upon Googling my symptoms, I decided my pneumonia had been COVID and self-diagnosed my increasing discomfort as COVID-related lung damage. I didn’t seek treatment based upon my feelings that during the pandemic, the medical system’s primary role was saving critically-ill COVID victims…..and clearly, I was not that sick!
On April 30th, I experienced excruciating upper back pain, falling to the floor. Atticus frantically licked my face and barked incessantly. On several occasions prior to that day, Atticus had howled and pawed at my chest, as if he sensed something was wrong.
Later that same day, I emailed my physician, who is a cardiologist, briefly describing my symptoms, asking if she could facilitate a COVID antibody test.
My doctor called immediately, expressing her concerns. It was almost 8 PM when she persuaded me to visit a nearby urgent care center, where test results, prompted another conversation with my doctor trying to persuade me to go to an ER. I told her “I was feeling better,” agreeing to see her in the morning. When I met my doctor the next day, the pain was excruciating, having traveled down my left arm. Tests indicated I was experiencing a heart attack; within a few short hours, I was in a recovery room, following the placement of a stent into my coronary artery which had been 100% blocked.
My hospitalization felt safe; strict infection control protocol was observed. The hospital staff was compassionate, caring, and took great effort to meet my needs.
Three months have passed since my heart attack; hospital follow up visits are in a safe, welcoming environment. I’m pain free, feeling great, enjoying long walks with Atticus.
It was a miracle I didn’t die at home by delaying treatment; it was my cardiologist, whose quick thinking and diagnostic skills saved my life.
I hope to convey that even during this pandemic, hospitals/first responders are prepared to treat non-related COVID emergencies. Don’t die of doubt!
On a final note, I tested negative for COVID antibodies; Atticus has stopped howling at night and my broken tooth has been fixed.