With the 11th Annual Cupid’s Cup 5K & 1-Mile Walk just around the corner, we wanted to share one patient’s journey through Carolinas HealthCare System’s cardiac rehabilitation program at CMC-Pineville following a heart attack last year. 57-year-old Sherri Johnson has many blessings in her life–she’s the mother of 3 boys (and 2 stepchildren), a loving wife, and a proud grandmother to 6 beautiful grandchildren, all under the age of 5; she has a busy job in communications but loves her work. She’s all the more thankful for these blessings since her recovery from a heart attack last summer, which came with little warning. Sherri shares her story:
“On the afternoon of August 28 of last year, my husband and I were driving from Charlotte to St. Simon’s for vacation. As I left Charlotte, I felt a slight pain in my chest, my first hint of any heart issues. The pain worsened as we continued to drive. An hour into our trip, I told my husband that he would need to call 911. From the car, we did just that and were instructed to pull off the highway and an ambulance would meet us there. I was taken by ambulance to the Fairfield Memorial Hospital in Winnsboro, South Carolina. The hospital was small and unable to handle my heart attack. My heart stopped at one point, which prompted them to call for a medical helicopter. I was flown to Palmetto Health Heart Hospital in Columbia, SC late that afternoon. I was taken immediately to the cath lab where the team put in a stent to stop the heart attack. It was explained to me later that evening that I would need open heart surgery, but they wanted to give my heart a few days to get stronger. Surgery was scheduled for the following Wednesday morning at 10:30[am]. On Wednesday morning, I began to feel pain again and we quickly realized that the stent had occluded and I was back in massive heart attack mode. The medical team literally ran my bed down the hallways, yelling to remove carts and people. My surgeon, Dr. Jeffrey Martin, was just finishing another surgery, and he quickly moved to my operating room. Dr. Martin performed a quintuple bypass. Released from the hospital 8 days later, I left with instructions to wear a defibrillator vest, which I did for a month.
I had to come home to Charlotte, which meant finding a medical support team here. I am currently a patient of Dr. Justin Haynie, a Sanger [Heart & Vascular Institute] cardiologist. I was very open to the idea of cardiac rehab program. I will admit, however, that I cried all of the way home from orientation. I’m a 57 year old female and felt that there was “nobody like me”. In my case, I struggled with feeling so grateful to be alive and so mad that my life would never be the same.”
Sherri recently completed cardiac rehabilitation with the help of exercise specialists in the Cardiac Rehabilitation Unit at CMC-Pineville. Through the program, Sherri regained confidence in her ability to exercise again, maintain her weight, and learn everything she could about living healthier. As she recalls, “What I got out of the program was a better understanding of the big picture.” She describes the Cardiac Rehabilitation Program as such a positive experience, despite feeling mixed emotions before starting the program. She recalls,
“I met many incredible people that lifted my spirits and I learned how to lift others up, too; I learned from the nutritionist how to plan my meals and eat smarter; I learned how to manage stress better; I learned the difference between a stent and bypass surgery, and finally understood what had been done to me; I learned how to exercise smart and with confidence – checking my heart rate along the way.
[Today] I am on my own, but I do miss the folks at cardiac rehab. I exercise each day, usually a half hour of some type of cardio. In late January, I hiked with a women’s group in Freedom Park here in Charlotte – a 4 mile trail – a new experience for me. I continue to eat healthy – I cook more, and shop at length for low-sodium products. Forget fast food drive-through; that’s in my past. I even attended a cooking demonstration at Whole Foods and learned some new ways to prepare fish. All-in-all, I am taking what I learned and adopting it. I plan to live a long, healthy life.“