Your Neighbor: Meet Amy Shoemaker

Published 12:00 am Thursday, October 26, 2023

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By Mandy Haggerson

For the Clemmons Courier

Amy Shoemaker grew up with parents who taught her to follow her dreams and combine them with a good work ethic. She never would have imagined that by following her passions, she would also be saved by them.

Shoemaker was the oldest of her siblings.

“As the only girl with three brothers, I played outside a lot, whether it was bike riding, army or fort building,” Shoemaker said. “It was your typical childhood. I also squeezed in dance and piano.

“From as early as I can remember, education was always No. 1. I knew after I graduated from high school that I would be heading to college.”

Shoemaker decided to attend Averett University in Danville, Virginia, where she grew up.

“I chose to study business because I knew that whatever path I would follow career-wise, I wanted to be able to depend on myself,” Shoemaker said. “I enjoyed that major and got a lot out of it.

“When I had talked to a friend in town about considering beauty school, it seemed like it would be a good fit. Her mom owned the beauty school in town. She also did skincare and specialized with the burn unit at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. I was intrigued by the opportunities that might present themselves.”

After completing the 18-month program, Shoemaker took a position with Matrix Hair Products.

“It ended up being a great experience because I was able to get my feet wet with color and also acquire free education,” Shoemaker said. “In the beauty business, education is expensive, so it was nice to be able to get that so early on. After a year at Matrix, I started working in a salon.”

While building up her clientele, she also added mom to her resumé. Son, Adam (37) and Sarah (34) added another reason she wanted to be successful in her professional pursuits.

After spending her first couple of years in Roanoke, Virginia, Shoemaker came to North Carolina.

“I’ve lived here for 34 years now, and I consider it home,” Shoemaker said. “It was tough at first having to build up a new clientele base. But I found that once you proved to someone that you did a good job, they would then tell their friends, and pretty soon, it’s keeping you busy full-time. I typically work 12-hour days from Tuesday through Saturday.

“What I’ve always loved about it is that every day is different. It’s rewarding to make people feel good about themselves. I’ve gotten to know a lot of interesting people, too.”

Aside from building a successful business, Shoemaker met her husband, Rick.

“We’ve been together now for 31 years,” Shoemaker said. “He’s always been very supportive of what I do. He knows how much I enjoy it.”

It was on one of those typical days that Shoemaker had an experience that she can only describe as a “God moment.”

“One of my regular clients, Brent Sharpe, was telling me a joke as I was shampooing his hair,” Shoemaker said. “He noticed that I didn’t respond and that the water was starting to go all over his face. Brent would later relay to me that at that moment, I went down like a tree.

“Brent’s medical background as a hospice pharmacist aided in identifying the signs of my having a stroke. I could feel like I wanted to go to sleep at that moment. Brent wouldn’t let me. He knew the importance of me staying awake and alert. He also made sure to remember exactly what time I started to show the symptoms of my having a stroke, which he relayed to the two emergency medical technicians that showed up in the ambulance.”

Shoemaker was rushed to Novant Health Forsyth Medical Center in 10 minutes and did not remember the ride over. Upon arrival, Shoemaker received IVTPA (clot-busting drug) and had a thrombectomy, a surgery to remove for blood clots that originated in her brain from an artery or vein, in less than 45 minutes from the onset of her symptoms.

In the fall of 2022, Forsyth’s Medical Stroke team started using the clot-busting drug Tenecteplase (one shot drug) for an acute ischemic stroke. From the moment patients like Shoemaker come into the emergency room to the time of the injection is around 20 minutes.

“I did remember them telling me that they were preparing me for surgery and that I was going to be OK,” Shoemaker said. “The staff at Forsyth was absolutely phenomenal. The doctors and the nurses acted so quickly and treated me with such kindness and care. I had my stroke on a Tuesday and was able to come off the ventilator the next day. I immediately started doing both occupational and physical therapy. They also began doing a lot of testing that day.

“I was released from the hospital on Friday and went back to work that Saturday, which is amazing. I know that if it weren’t for Brent and the incredibly skilled stroke team at Forsyth Medical Center that, the outcome would have been much different. It was nothing short of a miracle. I know that day really was all about God’s timing. If Brent hadn’t been running 10 minutes behind because he was helping someone at his pharmacy, it could have been very different.”

After getting back on her feet, Shoemaker learned that she felt fortunate to live close to a facility that has earned the American Heart Association’s Target Stroke Honor Roll Elite Plus Award. To receive the award, the hospital must be treating 75 percent or more of eligible patients in 45 minutes or less and 50 percent in 30 minutes or less. In addition, as of last week, they were recertified as a comprehensive stroke center by the Joint Commission (the organization that accredits healthcare organizations and programs), which is the highest recognition they bestow.

World Stroke Day is coming up on Oct. 29, and Shoemaker hopes that others are aware of the symptoms and resources that are available to them. Especially since 1 out of 4 people will have a stroke during their lifetime. Forsyth’s Stroke Medical Director, Dr. Colin McDonald, is aware of that staggering statistic, which is why he has a board-certified neurologist on call 24/7. They are the only facility in the region to do so, and it ensures that doctors in training and telestroke are not utilized. In the past 12 years, under the tutelage of Dr. McDonald, Forsyth’s program has never implemented a diversion for stroke care due to lack of capacity either.

“If my story helps other people, it’ll make me happy,” Shoemaker said. “I’m fortunate I have many more days head to spend time with my family and getting to do what I love to do, doing hair and spending time with interesting people.”