Thriving after Cardiac Crisis

At just 40, Sherrill was hit by severe heart problems that left her unable to walk or speak. But less than six months later, the working mom is back to her normal routine – and healthier than before her illness.

“I feel better than I have in years,” says Sherrill, who has two young sons with husband Paul. “I’m stronger; I have much more energy with my kids.”

The health crisis started last summer, when the South Orange woman suddenly couldn’t speak or feel the left side of her body.

Paul rushed her to Saint Barnabas Medical Center (SBMC), where doctors quickly diagnosed a series of strokes – triggered by a mass on her heart. Three days later, Sherrill had open heart surgery to remove the noncancerous tumor, which covered the back of her heart. When Sherrill’s heart stopped on the operating table, doctors massaged the organ to re-start it.

But Sherrill’s ordeal wasn’t over. When she tried walking, her heart rate skyrocketed. Doctors diagnosed atrial fibrillation, a problem with the heart’s electrical system, which can result from heart surgery. Fortunately, medication addressed the issue.

Sherrill recalls that each time her life was on the line, the SBMC team came through for her. “I’m absolutely so grateful to them,” declares the mom of Asher, 3, and Owen, 1. “They did everything to keep me here.”

To assist in her recovery, SBMC also provided cardiac rehabilitation – initially at home, and then at the hospital. Sherrill’s rehabilitation includes heart-strengthening workouts and lessons in heart-healthy eating.

“I’m in good shape now,” says the financial management consultant. “When I first got out of the hospital, I needed so much help. I couldn’t lift the kids; I couldn’t walk. Things have made a complete 180!”