By Tom Corwin
The Augusta Chronicle, Ga.
It wasn’t the first heart attack, or the second one, or the third that really got Dr. Sarah Ferguson to focus on the problem.
It was the triple bypass surgery, where they weren’t sure if she would live, that woke her up.
“I had to want to survive,” said Ferguson, 61, of Evans. Her survival now includes a “mechanical heart” left ventricular assist device that helps her heart pump blood, which her children joke makes her a “cyborg.”
Ferguson has chronicled her journey and the faith that inspired her and sustained her in a new book, A Killer Within: Down But Not Out. It comes out Wednesday and is available at Whole Life Ministries bookstore and on Amazon.com.
Heart disease runs in her family — her father died of a massive heart attack at age 42 — but the minister and mother of two didn’t recognize initially what was happening when at age 40 in June 1994 she had her first massive heart attack.
“I thought I was having heartburn, I had no idea I was having a heart attack,” she said. This despite having the classic signs of pain in her left arm, in the left side of her neck and nausea. Luckily, her next door neighbor was a registered nurse.
“She came over and immediately knew what was happening,” Ferguson said. But despite barely surviving that massive heart attack, she admits she was in denial.
“I didn’t do any of the things they told me to do,” Ferguson said. “I just could not believe I had a heart attack and I acted like it, too. I was very defiant, very non-compliant.”
She continued to stress out, trying to launch a new ministry while caring for two young boys and only grabbing a few hours of sleep a night. Ferguson had hoped the problem would go away but a couple of months later she had her second heart attack, Still reeling from that, she had her third in November and was scheduled for bypass surgery on Thanksgiving Day as the “only chance I had,” Ferguson said. “They really didn’t think I would survive that surgery.”