It began with the EMTs in Elma who got my heart started again. It continued at Mercy Hospital where an entire team of doctors and nurses did everything possible to see that I made it through – even though the odds of surviving such a massive heart attack were about 2%.

As a Division I college women’s basketball coach for nearly 40 years, I admittedly lived an unhealthy lifestyle. Long days, late nights, and game day stress. But I never thought I’d have a heart attack –especially the type doctors call a widow-maker.

A member of the Greater Buffalo Sports Hall of Fame, I was driving home from a reception held for new inductees last June. I called my wife, Linda – my girlfriend at the time – and said I wasn’t feeling well. When I got home, she insisted on driving me to the hospital. We were on our way when my heart just stopped. I have no memory of the day after that. 

Upon arrival to Mercy, Dr. Nayda immediately inserted a stent to free the blockage. I was then moved to neuro-intensive care, as brain damage was of concern. My heart still did not cooperate and Dr. Nayda and Dr. Jain teamed up to surgically install an extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) that provided cardiac and respiratory support. I remained in a coma for six days while on the ECMO in Mercy’s cardiovascular intensive care unit. Many others, such as Dr. Davis, Dr. Alnaji, Dr. Steinig and a team of caregivers monitored me until I came through.

As my health improved, I transitioned to the specialized cardiac floor, and then regained my strength in the Medical Rehab Unit at Mercy. By the time I was ready to go home I had a strong heart, no notable neurological damage, and continued recovery with Mercy Home Care and Cardiac Rehab at Mercy Ambulatory. The team had performed a miracle.

Not only did I make it through, Linda and I were married last September. We were so grateful for the care I received, members of the Mercy Hospital team and the first responders joined us at our wedding. More recently, we took our grandchildren to Disney for Christmas. As my daughter says, I’m back!

Share Your Gratitude

Please share your gratitude with a donation to the Mercy Hospital Foundation. To make your gift, please visit their website to make your secure donation online at Any and every contribution is appreciated. If you’re like me and have your own great experience with the caregivers or staff at Mercy Hospital, please take this opportunity to share your story.

Simply fill out the Angel of Care form.

Thank you for support in helping patients like me, get back in the game.

Sal Buscaglia

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