Teacher reunited with kids after medical drama

Enza Grimaudo laughs with her second-grade student Melissa

Enza Grimaudo laughs with her second-grade student Melissa Cooper as she gets reacquainted with her first- and second-grade students at Clara H. Carlson Elementary School in Elmont on Friday, June 13, 2014. (Credit: Steve Pfost)

For Enzamaria Grimaudo, the date April 22, 2014, will be indelibly seared in her memory. That is the day her heart stopped -- and she technically died.

Friday, after more than six weeks of recovery from a cardiac ordeal that played out in three hospitals, the 30-year-old special-education teacher at Clara H. Carlson Elementary School in Elmont got reacquainted with her students. It was the first full day she spent with them since April.

"I've really missed my students," said Grimaudo, a longtime Elmont resident.


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In April she was at home outdoors with her 3-year-old niece when she felt a strange sense of malaise.

"It was a Tuesday. I felt some pressure on my chest as I was walking with my niece. I thought I was going to pass out. I knew I had to get my niece back in the house. So I picked her up and literally ran into the house.

A few minutes later, Grimaudo fainted on her bedroom floor. Her mother dialed 911.

She was rushed first to St. Joseph Hospital in Bethpage, where doctors chose to send her to St. Francis Hospital in Flower Hill. Her doctors tell the rest her story:

"She was brought in as an emergency patient because she had a [near-] fatal heart rhythm," said Dr. Edward Lundy, cardiothoracic surgeon at St. Francis. "And literally, as she was being moved from the stretcher to the catheterization table, she arrested, and very frankly, she died. Her heart stopped."

He and his colleagues diagnosed viral myocarditis, a relatively rare heart infection. There are a number of viruses that can be contracted by happenstance and attack the heart. How Grimaudo was infected is unknown.

Most patients are treated successfully with a short course of anti-inflammatory medications, such as ibuprofen, said Grimaudo's other physician, Dr. Theofanis Tsiamtsiouris, assistant director of cardiology at St. Francis.

"This case was unusual because she became very ill and required very aggressive therapy and that usually doesn't happen," Tsiamtsiouris said.

The attacking virus caused such havoc with Grimaudo's heart function that it stopped.

"Because she was in the cath lab, we were able to immediately start CPR and put a small pump called an Impella pump in place," Lundy said. The tiny tubal pump is threaded through a vessel in the leg to reach the heart.

She survived the crisis but remained seriously ill in the following days. Doctors thought she would benefit from a heart transplant and transferred her to Montefiore Medical Center in the Bronx, a major cardiac transplant center.

But just as mysteriously as the heart ailment began, it even more miraculously began to fade.

Grimaudo has undergone physical therapy to regain strength.

The principal at her school, Kenneth Rosner, said he's thrilled Grimaudo has improved.

"It was great to have her back and nice to see the children's reaction," he said. "She is a good soul and it was good to see her back in action."

Grimaudo said full recovery will be a long road.

"It has taken awhile, but I feel a lot better," she said.

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this article misstated Dr. Edward Lundy's title at St. Francis Hospital in Flower Hill.

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