Shawnna's story.

Shawnna Curtis’ scar is a tiny reminder that she is still alive. We see it as proof that she’s like no one else. Shawnna was a trauma nurse when a heart attack left her needing life-saving care. Now, she’s back to work with a tiny symbol of just how tough she is.


Many people were involved in Shawnna’s care and impacted by her situation. In these videos and photo galleries, we can see and hear what they have to say about going through this experience at UF Health.

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From caregiver to patient

Trauma nurse Shawnna Curtis suffers heart attack, receives life-saving stent

Shawnna's story.When a driver is critically injured in a collision or when someone suffers a heart attack or stroke, Shawnna Curtis is right there, ready to provide emergency care during some of life’s most frantic moments. But on one particular Saturday morning, Shawnna, a trauma nurse at UF Health Jacksonville, suddenly became a patient in the same facility where she’s treated hundreds of others. 

After Shawnna arrived, tests showed she had suffered a heart attack. A cardiology team decided to treat her by placing a stent inside one of her arteries. 

Shawnna, 61, loves fitness and exercises several times a week. One night at the gym after a workout, she passed out while taking a shower. She awoke with her face plastered on the tile floor. She was uneasy the rest of the evening and discomfort carried over to the next morning. That’s when she decided to have her sister take her to the emergency room. 

“I chose this profession out of love. I think the heart is the most fascinating organ in the body, and I have a passion for taking care of patients with cardiovascular disease.”
- Gladys Velarde, MD

UF Health Jacksonville cardiologist Gladys Velarde, M.D., said Shawnna was suffering from acute coronary syndrome and that there was inflammation of the fluid-filled sac that covers the outer surface of the heart. Shawnna had an 80 percent blockage in one of her arteries, which contributed to the heart attack. 

“I was really scared,” Shawnna said. “I try to stay active. I watch my weight and eat well. I never expected that at all.”

Shawnna remembers Velarde holding her hand, looking straight in her eyes and calmly explaining what was going on. Shawnna said that helped her relax. 

“I chose this profession out of love,” Velarde said. “I think the heart is the most fascinating organ in the body, and I have a passion for taking care of patients with cardiovascular disease.” 

Velarde recommended Shawnna undergo catheterization and stenting. Ted Bass, M.D., a UF Health Jacksonville interventional cardiologist, performed the procedure, which started at Shawnna’s left wrist and ended near the heart at the left anterior descending artery. The stent allows blood to flow freely from that artery to the heart.   

Shawnna went home a few days later and soon resumed exercising and doing what she does best — taking care of others. Her follow-up appointments with Velarde have gone well.  

“I’m extremely pleased with the procedure and how it’s helped me stay alive,” Shawnna said. “There’s no chest pain or anything. I feel wonderful.”

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No Two Alike

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