The 60-year-old woman who was stabbed while riding her bicycle near a bridge in West Palm Beach last month only had a 15 percent chance to live when she arrived at St. Mary’s Medical Center, her doctor said Wednesday.
Suzanne survived the odds. The West Palm Beach resident suffered a puncture wound to her heart after a man, later suspected to be 22-year-old D’Antoine Roselle Jackson, stabbed her in the chest near the Royal Park Bridge on the morning of April 8.
She and Dr. Robert Borrego, medical director at St. Mary’s trauma center, spoke publicly about the incident for the first time Wednesday at a trauma awareness event at St. Mary’s Medical Center. For Suzanne, it was also an opportunity to show appreciation to the medical staff who saved her life.
Reflecting back on her attack, Suzanne said when she first looked at her wound it appeared to be a small cut. She said emergency officials at the scene thought it was a simple puncture wound.
“The minute that she came into the emergency room, we knew something must be wrong but we did not know what,” Borrego said. “Her heartbeat was very fast.”
“Her chest X-ray was normal, and you usually expect to see a lung collapse — but the knife somehow missed the lung.”
It was not until Suzanne received a CAT scan that doctors learned her right atrium was punctured, and fluid was building up around her heart.
Borrego said a 30-minute delay in Suzanne’s surgery would have killed her, and patients with this type of injury only have a 10 to 15 percent chance of survival.
The surgery, which took about an hour, needed to be done quickly in order to prevent additional blood loss, Borrego said. Typical open heart surgeries take longer and require machines to keep the heart and lungs working because the heart is not beating.
In Suzanne’s case, Borrego said, “you have to get in and do your job really quickly because we don’t have the benefit of a heart and lung machine. (Suzanne’s) heart was beating the entire surgery.”
Operating on crime victims is not unusual for Borrego. Out of the 2,000 patients who were admitted to St. Mary’s trauma center in 2017, about 20 percent had traumatic injuries from violent crimes, he said.
Suzanne recovered from the surgery with no issues, Borrego said, and she was discharged seven days later. Suzanne said she still feels pain in her chest, but she is relieved to have her final X-ray next week.
The morning of the attack was an average Sunday for Suzanne, who asked that The Palm Beach Post not use her last name. She said she regularly takes a bicycle ride along the Flagler Drive waterfront.
While she started to approach the bridge, Suzanne said she saw Jackson leaning against the guard rail, but did not think anything of it.
“As soon as he saw me, he just bolted,” she said. “He just stopped in front of me, grabbed the handle bars of my bicycle, and then immediately started to reach his hand to get into my backpack.”
While Suzanne yelled for help, she said Jackson knocked her to the ground, took a knife out of his pocket and stabbed her in the chest.
“I looked at him and said, ‘Please don’t kill me!’ and then he just got up and walked away,” Suzanne said. Jackson did not take any of her belongings, she recalled.
“I just kept saying to everyone, ‘Somebody has to come I don’t want to die.’”
Suzanne said she was shaken up from the ordeal, but it won’t stop her from taking her bike rides.
“I know so many people who ride that route,” she said. “I just got a Taser ... you have to be prepared, it’s sad.”
Police arrested Jackson in Fort Pierce last week on a trespassing charge. Jackson told officers that he is homeless, and he let himself into a house when he saw that the back door was unlocked.
Authorities said he will face charges of attempted murder and attempted robbery when he is extradited to Palm Beach County.
Investigators in West Palm Beach were able to connect Jackson to the stabbing from DNA evidence on Suzanne’s backpack, police said. Police records show that he has been arrested at least 11 times in Palm Beach County since 2012.