Sandy S A Mother’s Journey: Sandy’s Story

The entire Emergency Department staff and Cardiac Department were amazing and made me feel very comfortable. Thank you for saving my life.

This past December, Sandy Sullivan, a 55-year-old mother of four children, was looking forward to seeing her twin boys, United States Army Rangers, who were coming home for Christmas. On December 16, 2018 at 4:00 am, Sandy woke up with a pain in her throat.

“It definitely did not feel like a normal sore throat. It was just getting worse and then I started to break out in sweats,” Sandy shared. She woke up her husband and they went to the Emergency Department at Saint Barnabas Medical Center. The doctors quickly concluded that she was having a heart attack and rushed her into the Cardiac Catheterization Lab where Bruce J. Haik, MD, system director of Cardiac Catheterization Labs for RWJBarnabas Health, placed a stent in her heart.

“What was unique about Sandy’s case was the fact that although she did have a history of tobacco abuse, she had no other risk factors for a heart attack and was relatively young for a woman to suffer a heart attack,” states Dr. Haik.

“The whole thing happened pretty quickly,” says Sandy. “I remember being on the table telling the doctor, I hope this goes well because my twin boys are being deployed in a couple of weeks. I wasn’t sure if I was going to be alive or not.”

Sandy recovered in the Coronary Care Unit and was up and walking the next day. She was able to start getting back to her normal daily routine a week later, just in time to see her sons. “The entire Emergency Department staff and Cardiac Department were amazing and made me feel very comfortable. Thank you for saving my life,” says Sandy.

“Although Sandy’s symptoms were text book – chest pain and associated diaphoresis waking her up from sleep – she did initially present with a sore throat,” explains Dr. Haik. “Nausea, dizziness, anxiety as well as chest pain, which may include back or neck pain or throbbing in arms, is not an uncommon presentation for women.”

“If it doesn’t feel right, it’s probably not right,” Sandy warns people. She continues her cardiac care with Devang Gandhi, MD, and looks to start Cardiac Rehabilitation at Saint Barnabas Medical Center.

Saint Barnabas Medical Center provides a full array of advanced cardiovascular services including Transcatheter Aortic Valve Replacement (TAVR), non-invasive cardiac imaging, advanced echocardiography techniques, coronary CTA, diagnostic and interventional cardiac catheterization, peripheral vascular services including carotid stenting, and full-range of open heart surgery including valve surgery and coronary revascularization. In addition, a full range of electrophysiology services including pacemaker and cardiac defibrillator implantation, Watchman, electrophysiologic studies and atrial fibrillation ablation are offered. Saint Barnabas Medical Center has received The Joint Commission disease specific certifications for Acute Coronary Syndrome, Heart Failure and Cardiac Rehabilitation.

To learn more, call Cardiac Services at 973-322-5244 or visit