Mini Heart Pump Saves Elementary School Principal

Sep 22, 2022

Sandra Villasenor received lifesaving help from health care providers and good Samaritans when she survived a medical emergency a year ago.

Villasenor said she also has a sense of gratitude for a piece of medical technology — the world’s smallest heart pump — for allowing her career to resume. She is principal of Grayson Elementary School in western Stanislaus County.

“I don’t where I would be without it,” Sandra said. “Today, it does not seem like it really happened.”

Sandra, 53, has done a testimonial for Abiomed, the maker of the miniature Impella heart pumps, but her story also raises awareness about a lesser-known cause of heart attacks in women.

In August 2021, Sandra was going to a morning meeting at the Patterson Unified School District office and ordered a drink in the drive-through of the Ward Avenue Starbucks in Patterson.

As she drove up to the window to pay, she suddenly blacked out. Her foot slipped off the brake and her car ran into a concrete pillar.

Seeing the driver was unconscious, a barista came out of the Starbucks and pulled Sandra from the car. Other people saw she was in serious trouble. The woman in line behind Sandra’s car began cardiopulmonary resuscitation and a school district colleague inside the coffee house called 911.

When an ambulance crew arrived, Sandra was in cardiac arrest but there still was time for measures to save her life.

As CPR was continued, paramedics used the pads of an external cardiac defibrillator to shock Sandra’s chest. They were not able to stabilize the patient and Sandra was taken to Doctors Medical Center in Modesto.

Dr. Colm Murphy, an interventional cardiologist, said Sandra was not breathing on her own when she arrived in the emergency room.

To read more about Sandra’s story and the care she received at Doctors Medical Center, head to The Modesto Bee’s website.

Sign Up for Health Tips

Get our advice and upcoming events about weight, pain, heart and more.

Find a Doctor

Need a doctor for your care?