Keeping hope alive: Young doctor battling life threatening heart condition

by Kimberley Cummins

Lisa Oxley

After graduating from the Latin American School of Medicine in Cuba last year it seems as if all of Lisa Oxley’s dreams were coming through.

As a bright beautiful 27-year-old she began her internship at the Mount St. John Medical Centre in Antigua at the start of the year and life could not get any better. She was happy, her family was always there to show their family and her friends were well, friends… sometimes kidding but still loving.

Sitting in an office at Barbados TODAY this afternoon, fighting back tears and trying to crack a smile as she reminisced, she said it was almost impossible to improve on that happiness. Just a few months later, however, some of that happiness began to dwindle.

It happened one day in May as she was on duty at the hospital doing her regular rounds. Then all of a sudden she developed chest pains, shortness of breath as well as profuse sweating.

Panicked and confused no one knew what to do because, though she was born with a congenital birth defect, for 27 years she was healthy and never sick as a result of it.

“I had just the normal things that a child would have, fever, colds… just childhood illnesses not anything major. Never complained for chest pains as a child or anything. I didn’t play sports, not that I didn’t like sports, but because I channeled most of my energy into academics,” she said.

Shortly after, the former Ellerslie Secondary School student returned home to Barbados to undergo a series of tests, conducted in June at the Bracebridge Medical Centre in Belleville they diagnosed Oxley with a rare heart condition called; “Anomalous origin right coronary artery from the main pulmonary artery with significant dilation of both coronary arteries with many left to right collaterals”.

It meant that the right side of her heart was being supplied with oxygen prone blood instead of oxygen rich blood. As a result of that she was at risk for cardiac death, right ventricular failure and heart attack.

“Honestly when I first started having my symptoms I was in my mind trying to figure out what was wrong with me and I ran through a possible diagnosis. The first things that came to my head I ruled out because I didn’t have risk factors for them, like obesity, age factor, plus too I was banking on the fact that I am a young female and it is highly unlikely that I would have a heart attack or sudden cardiac death. So I was like ‘What really is going on… I thought it was acid reflux, anxiety or stress from work.”

She added: “Since getting the diagnosis though, it had both negative and positive impacts on my life. Negative in the sense I could not believe this was happening to me. I was shocked, being a medical doctor and knowing all the complications that may arise and the necessary steps for treatment. I was thinking ‘My goodness, the complications that could arise from me traveling overseas for open heart surgery and my risk factors’. And positive because it all boils down to my career, being a doctor I am totally understanding now of what my patients go through.

“Seeing the necessity of being sympathetic and the bed side manner. I am getting a view and experience from both ends of the spectrum of my career – as a patient and as a doctor.”


Came out of shell


Lisa admittedly is a very shy person and she told Barbados TODAY this whole experience has made her come out of her shell somewhat. In addition it has made her a stronger individual.

“It is helping me to express myself more, it is totally making me a stronger person. I am very determined and it is making me even more determined especially facing financial challenges because I do not have medical insurance and I am unemployed as a result of me being sick. I totally believe that tough times don’t last but tough people do and I know God has a plan for me and this is one of his ways of showing me ‘Lisa I have a purpose for you to fulfill’. I am really emotionally overloaded and kind of sad but I’m not afraid because I have faith in Jesus Christ.”


Treatment with surgery


The best way to treat Lisa’s condition is through surgery where doctors would take the right coronary artery, which is currently out of place, from the pulmonary artery and reimplant it into her appendix aorta. Because the condition is so rare the procedure has to be carried out overseas. It has been scheduled to occur at the Wolfsons Children’s Hostpital in Florida but with an attached price tag of US$30,000, she is in dire need of help.

Through the Lisa Oxley Heart To Heart Campaign, which was established by herself and friends and the Ellerslie Secondary Alumni Association they are planning events to help with the fund-raiser. Some of the events include a cruise on board the Jolly Roger on October 12, a ribbon day to be held at the school and hopefully other secondary school across the island as well as a games and karaoke lime and a barbecue/cocktail party.

Her cousin, Carlos Brathwaite, who played for the Barbados Tridents in the recently concluded Limacol Caribbean Premiere League, together with players Ricky Pointing, Shoib Malik, Ross Taylor, Andre Russell, Shoaib Al-Hasan and Muttih Muralitharan will auction their jerseys to help with the finances.

An account at Scotia Bank in Broad Street the City has been established for persons willing to donate money. The account number is 9015809 or she can be reached at

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