Watching 48-year-old Jennie Wolfe Sharda with her four daughters and husband horsing around in the back of an ambulance, is a sight for the living. The family of six, in Avon Lake for a visit with Sharda’s parents, Betty and Jack Wolfe, looks like they’re enjoying a visit to the to the fullest.
The girls climb into the basket of the aerial ladder, which lifts them high above the station. They get EKGs in the back of the ambulance and later there is cake, cookies and a tour of the department.
The July 14 trip to the station is more than just a fun visit though. For Sharda, it was a celebration of life, a thank you and the marking of the one-year anniversary when she for all intents and purposes, died.
“She was pulse less and had no respiration,” Fire Chief Glenn Eisenhardt said, noting Sharda’s EKG from July 3, 2011, when Sharda collapsed at her mother’s house.
Wolfe recounts the harrowing day when her daughter, who was in town with one of her daughters, came down for coffee.
“She said, ‘I feel dizzy, mom,’” Wolfe said.
Sharda went into ventricular fibrillation and her pulse stopped.
Wolfe, who knew CPR from working in the Bay Village school district, immediately began chest compressions while her husband, Jack, called 9-1-1. The ALFD initially believed Sharda was a stroked victim.
“We got the call at 8:58 a.m., were out the door by 9 and got the Leeward Court house at 9:05,” Eisenhardt said.
At 9:07 a.m. Sharda got her first shock and a good pulse was established by 9:09 a.m. By the time Sharda reached St. John (West Shore) Medical Center, she had a strong pulse and was breathing on her own.
And while the Sharda and Wolfe families were on station thanking the fire department for saving the mother of four, Eisenhardt said there were plenty of factors that went into Sharda’s full recovery.
“There was an early 9-1-1 call, bystander interaction, advanced technology and good definitive care (from St. John’s),” he said.
That included St. John’s rapid cooling of Sharda, a not-widely used, but seemingly effective treatment for heart attack victims.
Sharda didn’t technically have a heart attack, her cardiac arrest was related to the heart’s electrical system, not muscle.
“I had had a stent put in previously,” Sharda said. “I had some blockage but they don’t think that was related. This came out of the blue.”
A full recovery
One year later and feeling great, Sharda said her stress tests are clear and she’s back to exercising and being a buy mom.
“I’m back to normal; I have no restrictions,” she said.
Despite being back on track, there is one thing Sharda is missing.
“I have about a one or two week memory loss,” she said. “I went to a reunion before and don’t remember it, or the week after.”
Sharda spent 10 days in the hospital before being released.
She is continuing follow-up care at a Mayo Clinic branch in Scottsdale, AZ, where she lives with her family.
“They are still trying to figure out what happened,” Sharda said.
Giving thanks and praise
Avon Lake Fire Lt. Jeff Moore was on hand for the family’s return to Avon Lake and the thank you celebration.
“It only happens a few times that a family will come in and say thank you,” he said, but noted many they have treated have mailed in cards and letters.
Sharda, her family and parents were able to meet the paramedics involved in the rescue on Saturday. They shook hands with paramedic/firefighters Dana Szymanowski, John Nakel, Steve Peters, Angelo Tetorakis and Gary Madej who were all involved in helping keep Sharda alive.
“It took a lot of teamwork,” Nakel said. “Every call has a family and a name.”
Sharda, her husband Tom, parents and daughters Rachel, 12, Rebecca, 10, Jessica, 9, and Sarah, 6, spent more than an hour with the firefighters involved when her heart stopped, each taking a turn thanking the paramedics.
“I know have an affinity for people in that role,” she said. She believes the incident also happened for a reason.
“God has used this in our lives to put aside our fears. He’s going to take care of us no matter what.”
She also understands the need for CPR. And one year after, her oldest daughter Rachel is a card-carrying CPR certified pre-teen.