“Where’s my lipstick?” were the first words she spoke to her doctor, having regained consciousness once again, four days after her heart stopped beating.
Woodmere resident Heidi Farkas, 60, shared her story at South Nassau Communities Hospital on Thursday, the day before National Wear Red Day — so named to raise awareness for women’s heart health.
Farkas’s heart failed on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day in 2014. She was getting ready one morning to go to New Jersey for a grandson’s birthday party when she started feeling weak, and decided to stay home. Throughout the day, she recounted, she felt progressively worse, and thought she might have the flu.
She was about to turn off the light to sleep that night when she began feeling faint, and called her son, Pinny, who lives nearby. He called an ambulance, and just as it arrived at her house on Woodmere Boulevard, her heart stopped. “I made it to the last breath,” she recalled — a brief moment of clarity before she collapsed.
EMTs resuscitated her, but she remained unconscious for four days at South Nassau, where doctors determined that the electrical impulses that make the heart beat were being disrupted by a blockage. “It’s a scary thing,” she said of her experience. A temporary pacemaker was implanted, and she underwent therapeutic hypothermia, a technique to lower her body temperature.
She remained in the hospital for about 11 days and left once she was able to walk on her own. “It was like I was taking baby steps,” she said, adding that one day she went out to check the mail, the next day she took out the garbage and continued to gradually be more productive each day. A few weeks after her hospitalization, she returned to her international sales job in Farmingdale.
“I have a lot to live for,” Farkas said, explaining that she has three married children and 16 grandchildren. Her daughter, Estee Zwecker, and her husband, Tal, live in Israel and have eight children. Her older son, David Farkas, and his wife, Estee, have four children and live in New Jersey. Her youngest son, Pinny, is married to Yael, and they have four kids.
Since her near-death experience, Farkas has checked in about every six months with the two South Nassau cardiologists who treated her, Dr. Pilar Stevens-Cohen and the hospital’s chief of cardiology, Dr. Lawrence Kanner.
She now takes less medication than she did before her heart failure, swims five days a week and walks as often as she can. She is currently in between jobs. “I’m a very upbeat, positive person, just moving right along,” she said.