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Fixing Broken Hearts - Jerry's Story

| Date Posted: 2/26/2016

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On July 27, 2015, the life of Richmond County resident Jerry Sheppard forever changed.


After his normal workout routine at FirstHealth Fitness in Rockingham, he began to feel unwell – not normal and foggy, as he describes. He continued to the showers, part of his regular routine, where minutes later he collapsed. By chance, another member was in the men’s locker room at the same time – something Sheppard says is a rare incident – and called for assistance from exercise coordinator and personal trainer Sam Stokes and membership service coordinator Phillip Williams.


Paramedics from FirstHealth Emergency Medical Services (EMS) were on scene immediately to assist Sheppard, who was in sudden cardiac arrest. After reviving Sheppard on an Automated External Defibrillators (AED), the EMS Paramedics transported him to Reid Heart Center in Pinehurst.


Once at Reid it was discovered that Sheppard, a man with no prior health issues, had a 94 percent blockage in his left descending artery, the so-called “widow maker” because of the low survival rate of patients who experience this type of heart attack.


Thanks to the immediate and thorough medical attention from interventional cardiologist Steven J. Filby, M.D., and other members of the Reid Heart Center team, Sheppard not only survived the massive heart attack but has been able to thrive since the episode.


“To survive an attack in the ‘widow maker’ is rare,” says Dr. Filby. “The fact that Mr. Sheppard survived is absolutely amazing.”


"During the time while Mr. Sheppard was a patient at Reid, he was the sickest person in the unit," says Dr. Filby. "He received a stent, was put on life support, was put on a feeding tube, saw multiple specialists including a neurohospitalist and then went through extensive physical therapy - all in a three and a half week period."


"He had a slim chance of surviving, and he did because of his access to good care."


Since leaving the hospital three and a half weeks after arriving, Sheppard has successfully completed the FirstHealth Cardiac Rehab program, resumed working out five days a week at the fitness center and received a clean bill of health from Dr. Filby.


“At my last visit, Dr. Filby walked into the room with a smile on his face and told me I had no damage to my heart,” Sheppard says. “I asked him if that was unusual, and he responded by telling me that is almost never the case.”


"He is a miracle patient," says Dr. Filby.


Sheppard was fortunate enough to have access to care and the resources available to bring him back to perfect health.


“Not only did I receive exceptional care – from the doctors and nurses at Reid Heart Center to the FirstHealth Security staff that drove my wife back and forth to the Clara McLean House – but thankfully, I had a support system and insurance to assist my family and me during this time,” he says. "I would recommend FirstHealth - all of FirstHealth - to anyone and everyone. The Lord has blessed me a wonderful family, caring friends and a caring church, and great health care."


Many people aren’t as fortunate as Sheppard. For many, a life-threatening episode, access to health care and navigating the health care system can be incredibly confusing, and illness can place a great financial strain on the patient, family and friends. FirstHealth has various resources for helping patients and their families through these often frightening, and sometimes confusing, health care experiences. The FirstHealth Richmond Memorial Hospital Foundation’s CARE Fund is available to help those who are in this situation. Many of these resources are supported by community events like Run for the Ribbons.


Run for the Ribbons

An annual event, Run for the Ribbons celebrates life and well-being. Its proceeds support the Richmond Memorial Hospital Foundation’s CARE Fund, which provides assistance with community health needs such as transportation, medical equipment and supplies. 


The CARE Fund also funds community awareness and education programs that inspire exercise and healthy nutrition in the effort to decrease local childhood obesity rates as well as preventive screenings and the community’s annual Wellness Day to help reduce Richmond County morbidity rates from heart disease and lung cancer.


Proceeds will be divided equally between Discovery Place KIDS – Rockingham and the CARE Fund.


WHEN: Saturday, April 16, 2016

              Family Fun 1K, 9:30 a.m.

              Run for Ribbons 5K, 10:30 a.m.


WHERE: Discovery Place KIDS, Rockingham


To register, click here.



Jerry Sheppard (center) credits the FirstHealth Fitness-Richmond staff (shown here, Sam Stokes and Phillip Williams) for saving his life. “I was in the right place at the right time when I went into cardiac arrest, and I am a walking miracle – I truly believe that.” he says. “If it hadn’t been for these folks finding me, I wouldn’t be here today. I thank the Lord for putting them in my life.”

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