When the alarm on Sheryl Blazer's wearable defibrillator vest went off one morning in December, she was home alone on her new farm in Ponder. Her doctor had explained that if the vest alarm sounded when she was awake, she should turn it off so the vest wouldn't automatically shock her heart. But before she could reset it, she passed out.
Sheryl woke with the alarm still chiming and the mechanical voice of her LifeVest announcing it had administered treatment and urging her to call for help — which she managed to do before passing out again. A week earlier, Sheryl had seen Dale Yoo, MD, a cardiac electrophysiologist at Medical City McKinney, for an abnormal heart rhythm called atrial fibrillation (AFib). Dr. Yoo performed a cardioversion — a procedure that restores the heart's natural rhythm using electrical current. He ordered the vest as a precaution.
"It was right before Christmas," Sheryl said. "I think Dr. Yoo just had a sense about it and didn't want me to go over the holidays without it. If the vest hadn't shocked me, I would not have revived."
13 heart-stopping events.
Sheryl's heart stopped and was restarted twice more by the vest before paramedics arrived. On the way to the hospital, she was revived seven more times. Hospital staff performed three additional resuscitations for a total of 13 heart-stopping events.
"I didn't know if Sheryl would be "˜that one' that needed to have a life-save," Dr. Yoo said. "The vest was about providing insurance. And this patient needed it. In less than a week she needed it for cardiac arrest over and over again. It saved her life. Without it, she would not be here."
Although Sheryl initially saw Dr. Yoo for AFib, a condition that increases stroke risk, the LifeVest showed that she also had viral cardiomyopathy — a weakened heart. Dr. Yoo implanted a pacemaker in Sheryl's heart, which corrected her life-threatening condition.
"Dr. Yoo had the vision to give me the vest," Sheryl said. "Other doctors have told me they wouldn't have put it on me. Now, my husband and I are living the dream on our farm. I'm not limited in any way. I lift 50-pound bags of feed, muck stalls, collect eggs. I just turned 50 and I have a positive outlook on life. My friends told me your body goes at 50, but I'm so happy to be here!"
Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the U.S. Take our free heart risk assessment at TreatingTexasHearts.com to find your personal risk factors.
Always call 911 if you are having a medical emergency.
If your ticker's acting up, one of our many Medical City ER locations across North Texas has you covered. With average wait times posted online, if you do have an emergency, you can spend less time waiting and more time on the moments that matter most.