This heart team saved her life—plus the new $4.5M Shelby Baptist Cardiovascular Unit


Shelby Baptist Cardiovascular Unit
Dr. Trent Howard and Jennifer Stringfellow discuss her care at Shelby Baptist Cardiovascular Unit (Bham Now)

Jennifer Stringfellow had always gotten a clean bill of health at the doctor’s office. Little did she know, though, there was a ticking time bomb in her chest. Intense back pain on December 6, 2022 led to emergency surgery with Dr. Trent Howard at Shelby Baptist. Here is her story.

Meet Jennifer Stringfellow

The Stringellows
The Stringfellows (Jennifer Stringfellow)

Jennifer Stringfellow lives in Helena with her husband and two sons. The day her life changed, she’d ridden to bootcamp with a friend. During the bootcamp, she felt an extreme pain in her back and thought she had done something to hurt herself.

She stopped exercising and sat in a chair, waiting for her friend to finish the 30-minute class. When it was time to leave, her friend was concerned enough about her to drive her straight home.

When her husband, who was out of town, called, Jennifer was having a hard time stringing words together that made sense. He asked her to call her friend to take her to the ER.

If you’re experiencing strange symptoms, head to your nearest ER. Find out more about cardiovascular care at Shelby Baptist. Plus, they’re hiring.

From bootcamp to heart surgery at Shelby Baptist

Jennifer Stringfellow
Jennifer Stringfellow (center) with her friend Shannon (l) + Candy (r) at a salon appointment after discharge—at that point after surgery, it will still challenging for Jennifer to raise her arms and wash her hair. (Jennifer Stringfellow)

Because Shelby Baptist was the closest hospital, that’s where Jennifer and her friend went. Looking back, she’s grateful for this decision and the care she received.

In the ER, they checked Jennifer’s vitals, then did a CAT scan, followed by an MRI. A few hours later, doctors figured out that she had a tear in her aorta called an aortic dissection.

Dr. Trent Howard, the cardiothoracic surgeon on call that day, came back to the hospital to perform the life-saving surgery.

The next thing Jennifer knew, she was waking up in the Cardiac Intensive Care Unit (CICU), where she spent six days recuperating before moving to a step-down unit on a regular floor, then home.

“With Jennifer’s situation, she’s very young, healthy and active. She ignored strange symptoms for a few hours, and finally came to the ER with a truly life threatening problem. If she hadn’t come to the hospital, she would have died from this, probably that night.

It’s important not to ignore strange symptoms—if you think something’s wrong, go to the nearest emergency room.

Here at Shelby, we’re perfectly capable of taking care of people, getting them through it and getting them back to their daily lives. We have the same capability that bigger hospitals have even though we’re in a small town setting, and it’s convenient and nice for people to have that.”

Dr. Trent Howard, Cardiothoracic Surgeon, Shelby Baptist

“The people went above and beyond”

Shelby Baptist Cardiovascular
Dr. Trent Howard and team at Shelby Baptist Cardiovascular Unit (Bham Now)

When I asked Jennifer about her experience, here’s what she said:

“The nurses were very attentive. They went above and beyond on all levels. I just can’t praise enough about the nursing care that was provided at Shelby. If I ever had a concern or pressed my call button, they were very quick to respond.

In addition to meeting daily with my surgeon, I also had follow-up care provided by specialists to make sure there were no adverse effects, either from the medication I was on while recuperating in the hospital, or just from the surgery itself.”

The new Shelby Baptist Cardiovascular Unit

Shelby Baptist Cardiovascular Unit
Dr. Trent Howard and team at Shelby Baptist Cardiovascular Unit (Bham Now)

On January 10, Shelby Baptist opened its new $4.5M Cardiovascular Unit. It’s a state-of-the-art space where patients can recover after cardiovascular procedures, with 14 beds, including:

  • 6 ICU beds
  • 8 step-down beds

“The new unit is much more comfortable for patients and their families. The monitoring equipment makes it safer for patients and easier for the nurses to do to do their job.

It has the technology that we need to take care of patients on the same level as any place else in town. You’ll get the same quality care here that you’d get at bigger hospitals in downtown Birmingham or any other big city, but in a small hospital in a small-town setting.”

Dr. Trent Howard, Cardiothoracic Surgeon, Shelby Baptist

Learn more about cardiovascular care at Shelby Baptist today. Plus, they’re hiring.

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Sharron Swain
Sharron Swain

Writer, Interviewer + Adventurer | Telling stories to make a difference

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