Stories of the Heart - Judi Schlegel's Story


Name – Judi Schlegel, age 65, homemaker

Hobbies – Playing with her grandkids, working in the garden, cooking, being with family

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The Health Challenge

According to the American Heart Association, in 2016 there was a 24.8% chance that someone experiencing cardiac arrest within the hospital would survive, and only a 12% chance of surviving if experienced outside of the hospital.

It was the morning of Good Friday of 2016 when 65- year old Judi Schlegel went into full cardiac arrest.  When asked what Judi she remembers of the event, she replies with, “Not really anything.  I remember drinking my coffee that morning and looking at my spring jacket thinking, ‘I’m going to wear that’”.  She doesn’t remember much more than that including driving to the local Perkins restaurant to meet her family or ordering her food.  She briefly remembers being treated at the hospital in bits and pieces, but has little memory of the life-threatening events that she experienced until the following Monday. 

What began as a typical morning quickly took a turn for the worse when Judi suddenly became unresponsive while sitting at the table at the restaurant.  Fortunately for Judi, Chikako Gerasimek, RN, BSN, MSN a nursing instructor at Sharon Regional Health System were at the restaurant with her aunt, Marge Moates, also a nurse when she realized that something was wrong.  “I looked over and noticed that the woman was unresponsive”, stated Chikako.  At first I thought the womenwas choking, but soon realized there was something heart related going on and began to act.  Marge and I knew immediately what we had to do.” stated Chikako.  Both women teamed up and began to administer CPR while someone in the restaurant called 911.  McGonigle’s Ambulance arrived at Perkins within minutes and medics took over Judi’s care at that critical point.   

A relative who had been with Judi at the restaurant quickly placed a call to Judi’s daughter Jodi Schrawder, to find out what she wanted to do and where the ambulance should take her mother.

The Treatment

“I automatically knew she had to go to Sharon Regional”, stated Jodi who is employed by Sharon Regional as the director of pharmacy.  “When I was on the phone with my cousin, I heard them say in the background, over the phone, that they had to shock her and I knew it wasn’t a normal heart attack”.  Jodi describes her initial reaction as being a patient, not an employee.  She didn’t want her mother getting transported to a hospital for care just because of where she worked, but because she knew that Sharon Regional Health System is the region’s only designated Chest Pain Center.  She stated, “The decision to take her to Sharon Regional was easy for me.  I knew they would be ready and they would be quick.  I also knew if they could get her to the hospital, that would be her best shot at  surviving this event”. 

Because of the advance notification from EMS, a code STEMI was called prior to Judi’s arrival.  When the ambulance arrived in the Emergency Department at Sharon Regional, McGonigle’s EMS team had Judi stabilized and the hospital team was awaiting her arrival.  Sharon Regional’s Cardiac Care team instantly took action and readied her for a cardiac catheterization.  Dr. James Ryan, cardiologist, oversaw Judi’s care from the time she was seen in the emergency room to the cath lab where she received the catheterization. The team decided to stent her and put her in a ZOLL life vest, a wearable defibrillator, that was to be worn 24/7 for 90 days except for quick showers.  After the 90 days were up, they were able to remove the vest, and made the decision to place a permanent pacemaker in Judi’s heart to shock the heart, if needed.

The Outcome

It has been just over a year now since the cardiac arrest occurred and Judi is again able to spend time with her family doing the things she enjoys, as if nothing had happened.  When talking about her favorite hobbies, she says, “I enjoy baking, cooking, cooking, gardening and being able to play with my grandchildren”.  She did state, however, that she doesn’t feel as strong as she used to be, but that was to be expected.  She began cardiac rehab, which she attends once a week, at Sharon in April 2017 and says she’s had great success, “It isn’t the most fun experience, but I can already see a difference in gaining my strength back”. 

Looking back on the whole situation, both Judi and her daughter describe it as being something that happened to be at “the right time and right place”.  “My mom had her guardian angels looking out for her that day,” stated Jodi.  If it hadn’t been for Chikako’s quick reaction and the skill and speed of the Sharon Regional staff, she wouldn’t be here today sharing her story.  The cause of Judi’s sudden cardiac arrest is still in question, but her family couldn’t be more thankful for the way everything turned out and the care she received by everyone – from the ambulance response team, the emergency room staff, cardiologists, cardiac cath team and the entire hospital clinical and non-clinical employees.  “Everyone treated me with such great care.  I am so grateful to Chikako, Marge and McGonigle medics for what they did in the restaurant and also for the care I received at Sharon Regional. The community is so lucky to have Sharon Regional in our community,” concluded Judi.