In Their Own Words

Sisters Get Stents at Cardiac Cath Lab

Toni Bollon and Sherri Daniel pose in the cath lab at the FHN Judy and Virgil Bocker Cardiovascular Center at FHN Memorial Hospital in Freeport with Interventional Cardiologist Prasad Kilaru, MD, FSCAI, FACC. This is the first time Dr. Kilaru remembers treating siblings in the same week.

Sisters Sherri Daniel of Freeport and Toni Bollon of German Valley have been doing things together since childhood – but they never dreamed they would both receive stents in FHN’s state-ofthe-art cardiac catherization (cath) lab within four days of each other!

It all happened in November of 2023. Toni had been having pain in her calf and hip. Walking became difficult, so she called her primary care provider, Jeffrey Schleich, MD, who immediately suspected a vascular blockage that was impeding circulation in her leg. He promptly ordered tests at FHN’s cath lab.

“He knows me,” says Toni, “and we have a strong rapport. Sure enough, an ultrasound indicated a blockage in my leg, and I was scheduled for an angiogram and stent placement the following week.”

Sister Two Gets the Procedure First

But before Toni could have her procedure, her sister had an emergency one. “I just felt funny,” explains Sherri. “My hands and face were tingling and I started to feel sick to my stomach. I began violently vomiting. My husband knew something was wrong and called the ambulance. The EMTs got me stabilized, but I decided not to go to the hospital – I truly thought I was fine.”

Unfortunately, that was not the end of it and Sherri’s husband and kids took her to the FHN emergency room. Says Sherri, “Tests showed I had a heart attack! I was absolutely floored. I am only 60 and in pretty good health. I don’t drink, I am not overweight, and I quit smoking 15 years ago. But I have a family history of heart problems and have dealt with high blood pressure since my 30s, always taking my meds to keep it under control.”

After an angiogram, Sherri was also diagnosed with a blockage and scheduled for a stent the next day.

“I had a heart attack on Monday, the stent on Tuesday, was released on Wednesday, enjoyed Thanksgiving on Thursday, and went back to the ICU on Friday because my blood pressure was soaring – the same day my little sister Toni was scheduled for her stent. So the nurses were working to regulate my BP while my sister was downstairs getting her procedure. It was crazy and our poor mom was worried sick.”

ICU Nurse Makes an Impression

Happily, the story improves from here. Sherri’s blood pressure stabilized with the help of Alexi Ostergard, RN, her nurse in FHN’s intensive care unit (ICU).

“She was great,” Sherri emphasizes. “A real pro. Down to earth, attentive, intuitive, capable, and compassionate. She was truly meant to be a nurse! My numbers got under control, I was released on Monday, and I have been feeling back to normal ever since. My entire experience at FHN was truly awesome.”

Now, Sherri’s primary care provider, Diana McNulty, MD, and interventional cardiologist Prasad Kilaru, MD, FSCAI, FACC, are keeping track of her progress. “Both of them are great assets to FHN,” says Sherri, “and I know they are looking out for me, evaluating my cardiac rehab, and monitoring my needs.”

Sister One Happy with Outpatient Procedure

Toni, meanwhile, had a successful procedure as an outpatient – she went home the same day. “They did a great job letting me know exactly what was happening, and I felt informed up front,” says Toni.

The sisters proved to be somewhat of a novelty in the hospital. “We did create a bit of a stir,” explains Toni. “We started calling ourselves ‘Stent One’ and ‘Stent Two’ and ‘The Stent Sisters.’ The FHN cath lab team noticed that two patients in the same week had the same tattoo – three hearts for three sisters. (We started teasing our youngest sister, Stacy, that we are in an exclusive club she isn’t invited to join). It was pretty funny.”

Heart Issues Can Cause Heartache

Sherri and Toni, however, know their heart issues are no laughing matter. Their dad, now gone, struggled with heart problems. Their 79-year old mom – with a four-heart tattoo for herself and her three daughters – is dealing with a heart condition as she ages. And sadly, Toni’s son, Tanner, died of a heart attack three years ago, in March of 2021.

“His fiancée found him on the couch,” explains Toni. “He was just 33. He thought he had heartburn. But he had some numbness too, which prompted him to make an appointment that he never went to. He had been laid off, had no insurance, and worried about the cost.”

Heartbroken from losing Tanner, both sisters stress the importance of getting checked quickly if any symptoms are present. “You just never know,” says Sherri. “Go to the ER. Don’t hesitate. Don’t worry about being embarrassed. And remember, symptoms can be different for women. Get checked!”

Rehab – the Final Step

Both sisters plan to complete cardiac rehabilitation at FHN, and Sherri has already started. “I am at rehab for an hour and a half three times a week, and it has been great for me,” says Sherri. “I don’t love exercise, but I know I benefit from it and it is making me feel strong. It is a well-run program and they customize my rehab for my needs.”

She continues, “The team is very knowledgeable and they push you because they want you to be well. I also value the educational component, which includes mental health insights, because it is a bit daunting post-heart attack. That guidance is really helpful.” Toni plans to start her cardiac rehab regimen following an upcoming cruise, which will include her sister Sherri and Sherri’s husband and children. “I am going to kick back, relax, and celebrate a new year – hopefully a healthy one,” she enthuses. “When I return I will start the program and join my sister on the treadmill!”