2023 Real Woman: Sharell Weeams

The following is Sharell's story and not an endorsement or diagnosis. Stories have been edited down for time.

Dallas business owner Sharell Weeams survived a heart attack and cardiac arrest. Once inclined to brush off medical advice and her intuition, she now urges others to listen to their own bodies.

Sharell Weeams fell in love with West Coast swing dancing more than a decade ago when she saw someone teaching a lesson one night while she was out to dinner. She’s been an enthusiast ever since.

While the pandemic shut down the dance world for about a year, things had revved back up in November 2021 when Weeams was social dancing at a weekend competition with a roomful of people at a local hotel ballroom. Suddenly feeling dizzy, the Dallas business owner told her partner she didn’t feel right, then fell to the floor.

One of her closest friends was there, a fellow dancer and nurse whom Weeams had begged to come hang out with her. The woman grabbed a folder and fanned her friend. She was stunned as she watched Weeams take her last breath.

Two other nurses were there, and the three quickly went to work. One asked for a pulse check before starting CPR. The friend volunteered to perform rescue breaths. Someone else realized CPR wasn’t working and located an automated external defibrillator, or AED, which can shock a person’s heart back into a normal rhythm.

“They were able to use AED to shock me back to life,” Weeams said. “I think it took a couple of times, but they finally shocked me back to life.”

Paramedics rushed Weeams to the hospital, where she underwent a series of tests. The cardiologist told her everything looked normal.

“Well, I’m not leaving this hospital until you find out what happened so it doesn’t happen again,” Weeams said.

The next day, during a cardiac catheterization to check the internal workings of her heart, the specialist found the problem.

“You have extensive blockage to your arteries,” he said. “We’re going to have to do a quadruple bypass.”

Two days later, Weeams had surgery. She had survived a heart attack and cardiac arrest. That was luckier than her dad, who she came to learn died of a heart attack at the same age, 42.

Since Weeams didn’t grow up with her father, she wasn’t aware of the extensive history of heart disease on his side of the family. She didn’t know about all the bypasses and heart attacks, some fatal. She was aware of her extremely high cholesterol levels at age 25, but didn’t understand how serious that was.

“I kind of feel like I cheated death because I was headed down the same path as him,” she said.

Weeams would skip taking her medication because she thought she could combat the condition on her own. She knows better now and is a “little bit of a nag” to family and friends about knowing their cholesterol numbers and following the doctor’s orders.

“I didn’t have to have a heart attack and sudden cardiac arrest at 42 years old,” she said. “I could have prevented it if I had just done what my doctor told me to do. He kept telling me, 'It’s not if, it’s when.'”

Weeams also believes she should have trusted her intuition and not allowed herself or the doctors to brush off the burning sensation she had been having in her chest as heartburn. 
“Really listen to your body. I knew for kind of a year leading up to my cardiac event that something was off,” she said.

Weeams was the model patient during three months of cardiac rehab as she learned to trust her body again. Since then she walks four miles a day and has dropped 35 pounds. She also regained the confidence to return to West Coast swing.

The dance community was happy to welcome Weeams back, including her friends who helped save her life. One of them was so impacted by the event that she got certified through the American Heart Association to train other dancers how to perform CPR.

“It’s been amazing to dance again. It brings me so much joy,” Weeams said. “The first day out it just felt like a complete full-circle moment. It just felt like the place where I almost died is the place where I felt the most alive.”

HEALTH CARE DISCLAIMER: This site and its services do not constitute the practice of medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always talk to your health care provider for diagnosis and treatment, including your specific medical needs. If you have or suspect that you have a medical problem or condition, please contact a qualified health care professional immediately. If you are in the United States and experiencing a medical emergency, call 911 or call for emergency medical help immediately.