Dance Instructor Faces Death and Lives to Teach Another Day

For three hours, physicians and nurses rotated in and out of the operating room performing CPR on William Ashworth, shocking him 54 times to keep him alive. Once they were able to restart his heart, Ashworth would spend another 20 days in a coma, beginning at Memorial Hermann The Woodlands Hospital and then transferring via Memorial Hermann Life Flight® to Memorial Hermann-Texas Medical Center for further heart monitoring, where he would remain for almost two months.

Today, Ashworth, 46, will admit that he doesn’t remember the events that led him to Memorial Hermann. It was only later, after he had regained consciousness, that his wife Sherri filled him in on the gut-wrenching details of what transpired that fateful day.

A ballroom dance instructor for 20 years, Ashworth had been leading a lesson at a studio in The Woodlands  when he suddenly collapsed on the floor. The owner of the studio immediately began performing CPR on Ashworth, continuing for nine minutes until paramedics arrived.

Ashworth had suffered a massive heart attack, sometimes called the “widowmaker” which occurs following an abrupt and complete blockage of the left coronary artery that supplies blood to large areas of the heart. Only a fraction of people who suffer this kind of heart attack will survive.

“My main coronary artery was 100 percent blocked, and I had no idea,” Ashworth said. The revelation was a complete surprise to Ashworth, an active man who felt healthy and strong leading up to the attack. “I never felt bad. I didn’t have symptoms. I never knew this would happen.”

Ashworth survived the attack but his recovery continues to this day. After spending two weeks undergoing rehabilitation at TIRR Memorial Hermann, Ashworth is continuing rehabilitation at home. For now, he uses a wheelchair or a walker to get around; however, he is quick to say that he expects to make a full recovery.

Ashworth said he’s grateful for the compassionate care he has received across the Memorial Hermann Health System.

“From the physical therapists to the kitchen staff to the doctors, the entire team was on top of everything. They encouraged me; they pushed me. I had the best people I could ever have, and it’s why I am where I am today,” Ashworth said.

Whenever he regains full mobility, he plans to return to the dance floor, he said. But, that’s not his only goal.

Because of his excellent experience, Ashworth said he plans to give back by volunteering at TIRR Memorial Hermann once he recovers. “I’d like to teach dance classes to the patients, including wheelchair dance classes,” Ashworth said.

Both he and his wife say they believe everything fell into place as it should have throughout the entire care process and at every touch point. “Some days were more trying than others, but I always felt that my care was a priority. The entire staff not only took care of me, but also my wife throughout it all, and I appreciate that,” Ashworth said.

Shortly before Christmas, Ashworth returned to Memorial Hermann The Woodlands to visit his care team and express his appreciation. It was an emotional experience for him that included a visit to the very same operating room where doctors and nurses gave their all to keep him alive.

“They never gave up on me. It was nice to meet the people who saved my life and give them a hug,” Ashworth said.

Ashworth’s incredible story was recently featured on ABC-13. To view that story, click here.

To learn more about keeping your heart healthy, visit our Heart Month page.

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