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Lancaster man shares how he recovered from open heart surgery by doing a drawing a day

  • Aniya Faulcon

 Rebecca Rutstein

Airdate: Wednesday, February 8, 2023

According to the Centers for Disease Control, one person dies every thirty four seconds in the United States from cardiovascular disease. Heart disease is the leading cause of death for men, women, and people of most racial and ethnic groups in the United States.

On The Spark Wednesday we heard the story of a Lancaster man who has a heart condition and recovered from open heart surgery by doing a drawing a day. Jerome Hershey, artist and creator of the Breath art series, and his wife, Shelley Hershey joined us to share their story in honor of American Heart Month.

Jerome, owner of an art studio in Lancaster, said, he was monitoring his heart murmur for six years and knew he had moderate aortic stenosis, which occurs when the heart’s aortic valve narrows, but didn’t know what it was and wasn’t aware that he was sick until the situation became severe.

During the summer of 2021, Jerome was more tired than usual but thought it was because he was getting older in age. After receiving poor results from a few tests ordered by his cardiologist he was scheduled for open-heart surgery. The procedure was postponed twice during the height of the pandemic, as hospital beds were limited.

Jerome waited an additional three weeks before his procedure and during that time he found it difficult to breath.

His doctor finally called to reschedule Jerome’s surgery. After a successful surgery, Jerome did a drawing a day to help himself recover and combat the possibility of depression.

Before his surgery he was trying to find ways to push his art series called Fields to the next level. During his recovery, he created small ink drawings on gessoed panels and altered the size of the blocks on a grid until he found that transitioning larger squares in the center of the piece to smaller squares at the edges created an image that seemed to expand or inhale; and by reversing the order from small to large, the images seemed to push out or exhale. Jerome called this art discovery a “eureka moment”.

“I had gone through this health issue and it wasn’t like I set out to create images that spoke to that but when you do, you don’t walk around it you play the hand that you’re dealt with,” Jerome said. “…I don’t know if folks that say they have congestive heart failure say that they’re completely recovered because it’s something you have the rest of your life but I feel like I’m completely recovered,” Jerome said.






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