Janet Emde spent most of her adult life working in the corporate world. During her career, she traveled the world seeing great things, but doing work that never truly fulfilled her. On the last trip with her former employer, she was sent to India. While she was there, Emde caught a glimpse of the native women dancing in their saris and was inspired to take a chance on something she had never done. “It was like a wave of something came over me,” explained Emde. “All of the sudden, I knew I didn’t want to work at my job anymore. I wanted to go back to my hometown, Fairfax, Oklahoma, start making clothes and be happy.” Little did Emde know, her choice to return to Oklahoma would impact her health.
“I’ve gone my whole life with no heart issues, but I woke up one morning in mid-September and it felt like someone had poured Drano down my throat,” said Emde. “I went to the emergency room at the local Fairfax hospital hoping for relief, but they couldn’t control the pain. It was absolutely horrible. They determined I had had a STEMI heart attack and that my left anterior descending artery wasn’t functioning properly. They transferred me via helicopter to Oklahoma Heart Institute in Tulsa. I remember the team on the helicopter telling me that there would be a lot of people waiting on us when we landed. In the midst of this stressful time, they were all so kind and really tried to calm my nerves.”
Dr. Stanley Zimmerman, a cardiologist at Oklahoma Heart Institute, was among those waiting when they landed. “Dr. Zimmerman assured me that everything was going to be okay, even though he didn’t have time to put me to sleep,” said Emde. “I was given calming medications before and after the surgery, but was awake during the actual procedure. It all happened so fast. I was done with my procedure less than an hour after going to the local emergency room. I didn’t even know everything that was going on, but I knew that whatever was happening needed to be done.”
Post-surgery, Emde has faced a few setbacks. “My post-surgery journey has been a bit harder than expected,” Emde explained. “One day, I just wasn’t feeling right, so I went back to the emergency room. They told me I was going to have another heart attack and that I needed to get back to Tulsa right away. Currently, I am doing fairly well. This definitely hasn’t been an easy journey. It has been a real struggle at times, but I am continuing to get better. I plan to start rehab at Kaiser Rehabilitation Center very soon, which should last for several months.”
Through everything, Emde is grateful for the willingness to go above and beyond shown by her doctors. “One of the greatest things about this experience is that Dr. Matthew Good, a cardiologist at Oklahoma Heart Institute, comes to Fairfax a few times a month, which saves me a long drive,” Emde said. “I truly appreciate how well they work with the smaller hospitals so that we can be provided with good healthcare. I have never heard anything negative about Dr. Good. Everyone loves him and thinks he is wonderful, including myself. Dr. Zimmerman has also been great. Following my second surgery, Dr. Zimmerman came to my room to check on me. I thought it was so wonderful that even in such a large hospital, the doctors will take the time to come and check on you, even when their schedules are so busy. He is truly my hero.”
For Emde, there is a real silver lining to her health issues. She recently learned that she will be showing her work at the Osage Tribal Museum in Pawhuska, Oklahoma in the coming years. “To me, this means I’m going to live,” said Emde. “After everything I’ve been through, I’m so glad I am in a career that I love. I wake up every day looking forward to working. The pieces that I am creating will influence generations to come, which is very fulfilling. I also get to sew with my grandkids, which is one of the greatest joys of my life.”