Karin Sharp: LPN and Advocate for Women's Heart Health

Karin SharpKarin Sharp has a story to share. A licensed practical nurse at Columbus Regional Health Gastroenterology, Karin suffered a heart attack late last year after experiencing symptoms she did not think signaled heart trouble. 

Karin said she felt a “little discomfort” in the center of her chest – so little in that she wouldn’t even give it a one on a 1-10 pain scale. She attributed the pain to indigestion or anxiety, possibly a pulled muscle, but nothing serious. A few weeks before feeling some chest discomfort, however, she had experienced horrible jaw pain on two separate incidents. She dismissed the jaw pain because it went away.

The chest discomfort, however, did not go away, so she asked one of her colleagues to check her heart rate and blood pressure. Her heart rate was 120. Her blood pressure was 240/120. Karin has taken blood pressure medication for many years, but this was different. Her blood pressure was not improving.

After talking with her physician, Karin went to the CRH Emergency Department. An electrocardiogram was done, which was abnormal. Soon after, interventional cardiologist Nandu Gourineni, MD, did a cardiac catheterization to see how well her heart was working. She still did not think anything was wrong. But then Dr. Gourineni inserted a balloon pump to keep her heart pumping blood through the weekend, because something was wrong. Karin had suffered a heart attack and would have surgery the following Monday.

Karin met with cardiothoracic surgeon Gregory Dedinsky, MD, who assured her that everything would be all right. His words provided some comfort. “I just love him. The light of God shines right out of him,” said Karin. “The way he talks to you. The way he treats you. The care he gives you. It’s the most comforting and peaceful.”

That Monday, Karin had five bypasses, performed by Dr. Dedinsky. Heart bypass surgery is when a surgeon takes blood vessels from another part of the body to go around, or bypass, a blocked artery so that more blood and oxygen can flow to the heart again. One major artery was completely blocked. “It had been closed for so long and made a collateral, and then the collateral closed,” Karin said. Two additional arteries were 95% and 90% blocked. “All of that was happening, and I didn’t even know it,” Karin said.

Karin is grateful for the care she received at CRH – from the moment she arrived at the ED to her surgery, the care she received in the ICU, the compassionate care from Nurse Practitioner Dawn Stidham following her surgery, and the continuing care she has received from Dr. Gourineni and staff. “I could not have gotten better care. The whole team is outstanding,” said Karin. She is doing well today and looks forward to taking more beach vacations, something she enjoyed prior to her heart attack. But what she really wants is to be an advocate for women’s heart health. She wants women to know that symptoms can be different for each person and to pay attention to any new symptoms and to act on them. “You have to listen and be aware and get attention when you need it, not when you think it’s okay,” she said.

Karin, we are glad you are feeling better! Thank you for sharing your story and being an advocate for women’s heart health!

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