ABILENE, Texas - 2014 did not start out the way Taylor County Sheriff's Office Warrants Clerk Shelia Pinkston would have hoped.
After battling cardiomyopathy for 10 years, the 44-year-old Pinkston had to undergo surgery for a mechanical heart implant in January.
"My heart finally just gave out – and my only option was an L-VAD, which is a Left Ventricle Assist Device," she said. "It's battery operated, motor-operated and that's what flows the blood through my body to keep me alive. I will carry this device through until they get me a heart."
That means the device can never stop working and has to be taken care of 24/7 even if she isn't able to do so.
Her doctors encouraged her to get with her local first responders so they would know how to help her in case of an emergency.
That is where her boss – Sheriff Ricky Bishop – stepped in.
"I went ahead and got with EMS and I'm still a member of the view fire department," Bishop said. "I got several of those guys up here to attend the class, so they know what's going on in case we respond to a call at her house."
On Wednesday a specialized team of technicians came to Abilene to teach her coworkers how to respond if the heart's main power system fails or if other problems occur – a responsibility they gladly took on.
"They care, they're dedicated and they want to get all the training they can," Bishop said, "and even her coworkers here want to learn so they can help her in case there's a problem. If anybody else had this problem, we would have done the same thing for them."
Sheila is now awaiting a heart transplant.
"I am back on the list," she said. "I'm gonna be a 1-A, which is a very critical stage, … (and) should be back on by Friday."
But what's especially amazing is the attitude she carries in the midst of a daunting diagnosis.
"I don't come home and sit and just feel terrible," she said. "I walk three miles a day now. I couldn't ask for anything better. I mean, thanks for all the prayers I've gotten. I'm just waiting for my heart."
She plans to return to work soon, but until then, here are the facts you need to know if you'd like to help with her mounting medical expenses. Her vacation and sick time have run out, so she is without a paycheck. Her coworkers have been organizing fundraisers, and currently there is an online auction underway. You can visit the site by CLICKING HERE.