One night, Maribel answered her door to find her neighbor, Holly, covered in blood and frantic for help. Holly says that after an argument with her ex-boyfriend of two years, the man entered her home with a knife and stabbed her more than 22 times in her chest, arms, face and neck in an attempt to kill her. As the women waited for emergency services to arrive, Maribel urged Holly to remember her son and fight for her life.
“There were times where he was emotionally abusive and damaging, but I never thought that he would do something to physically harm me,” Holly says of her assailant and former flame.
Emergency room physicians quickly went to work. With multiple stab wounds to the chest and a rapidly declining blood pressure, doctors had to act fast. After undergoing an emergency procedure to restore a collapsed lung, Holly lost consciousness and became unresponsive. Then plastic surgery resident and on-call physician Dr. Joseph Chen made the life-saving decision to open up Holly’s chest right in the emergency department to expose the heart and place his finger in a wound to her left ventricle. With the bleeding temporarily stanched, the medical team was able to manually jump start her heart and restore her vitals.
“A stab wound to the heart is the one injury that you have the most success with if you make a decision early and quickly to do something about it,” trauma surgeon Dr. Michael Lekawa explains.
Despite an extremely low likelihood of survival, Holly managed to pull through with the help of her quick-thinking and fast-acting physicians. As for her assailant, Holly's ex was convicted of attempted murder and is currently in jail awaiting sentencing.
Holly shares that she’s currently in treatment with a therapist to manage the emotional scars of her experience. To help her with the physical scars from the grisly attack on her life, Holly’s therapist recommended board-certified plastic surgeon Dr. Shankar Lakshman, who agreed to perform the procedures to remove or reduce the appearance of her scars free of charge.
After spending nearly a month in the hospital, Holly was left with close to $2 million in medical bills, including the cost of the extensive emergency care. The Doctors reached out to Wendell Potter, author of the book Deadly Spin and senior analyst at the Center for Public Integrity, to look into Holly’s insurance coverage.
Wendell reveals that Holly’s insurance company has agreed to cover all of her emergency care costs and says her insurance copays will be covered by the California Victim Compensation Program, a government fund that uses the fines paid by those convicted of violent crimes to help victims who have been injured or threatened with injury.
If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship and needs help, please call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233).