Barbara Corey, 66, lists her medical issues one after the other, like waves rolling in during a tropical swell.
Back surgery. Artificial hip. Shoulder surgery. Stage III renal failure. Shark bite. Yes, shark bite.
It was already a daunting list. Then, in 2015, Barbara added another medical condition to that list—Heart Attack.
The heart attack cut short her day of surfing and nearly ended her life.
Fortunately, a great team of local paramedics and the heart team at New Hanover Regional Medical Center were able to help. NHRMC is among the best in the nation at getting heart attack patients the care they need in the least amount of time possible. Barbara, and other patients like her, are alive because of the protocols instilled at NHRMC and the skill of these medical professionals.
Barbara remembers that her “arms felt like noodles” and she couldn’t paddle any more. When she showered at the boat ramp, she felt breathless and pain gripped her chest. That's when she realized she was having a heart attack.
Then, Barbara made a potentially critical mistake.
Instead of calling 911 immediately, she drove home to change into dry clothes.
“Time is vitally important during a cardiac event,” said Dr. David Weaver, Medical Director of the Cardiac Cath Lab at NHRMC. “Your heart is not receiving the oxygen it needs to function properly. The sooner your heart gets oxygen, the more likely you are to experience a better outcome.”
When Barbara finally called 911, she was throwing up and had cold sweats. When the ambulance arrived, paramedics found her trapped between her bed and a wall.
Barbara was in a foggy state for the ambulance ride to NHRMC, thinking only of her Buster, her long-haired Chihuahua mix, and who would care for him. Then she was medicated and taken to the cardiac catheterization lab. The next thing she remembers is waking up to hear hospital providers tell her, “We put a stent in. You're going to be fine.”
She soon regained the spunk that has made her so popular at Wahine surfing competitions and with the students she teaches to surf. Three weeks after her heart attack, Barbara was back on her surfboard, paddling out with her buds.
Recently, she climbed on her shortboard and rode waves all the way to shore at Carolina Beach, showing them love and respecting their origins.
“When you’re in the water with a couple of buds, it’s spiritual,” said Barbara, her graying curls bouncing beneath her black surf shop cap. “It soothes the soul more than any other sport, except maybe hiking in the mountains.”
A shark attack didn’t take away her zest for life. Back pain hasn’t kept her from doing what she loves. And thanks to the heart attack program and the efficiency of the paramedics and hospital staff at NHRMC, neither did her heart attack.