Michael Sorrell – Sudden Cardiac Death Success Story

No Stopping Him Now

Paul Quinn College President Michael Sorrell embraces new life after surviving heart incident

Michael Sorrell – Sudden Cardiac Death Success Story
After heart surgery, Michael Sorrell has made healthy changes so he can enjoy days like this with his family for years to come.
Photos courtesy of Liz Graves Photography

On Sept. 11, 2008, G. Mark Jenkins, MD, FACC, independently practicing interventional cardiologist on the medical staff at Methodist Dallas Medical Center received a note requesting that he come see patient Michael Sorrell.

“I saw the name and thought, ‘It can’t be Mike,’” recalls Dr. Jenkins.

Sure enough, Michael J. Sorrell, Esq., his longtime friend and recently appointed president of Paul Quinn College, had experienced sudden cardiac death.

Sorrell’s saving grace was his then-girlfriend, now-wife, Natalie Jenkins Sorrell.

“If she hadn’t pumped on his chest, breathed for him, and called 911, he wouldn’t have made it,” Dr. Jenkins says.

Never saw it coming

At the time, Sorrell was only 41. He didn’t smoke, rarely drank, exercised regularly, ate well, and had annual checkups. Plus, he had no family history of heart problems.

Yet that September morning, an abnormal heart rhythm caused his heart to stop.

“First, you’re experiencing a heart condition for which you’re the most unlikely candidate,” Sorrell says. “And then you learn that the overwhelming majority of people who experience it don’t survive. And then you survive it because the woman you’re dating just happens to be there and remembers how to do CPR from when she was a 16-year-old lifeguard.

“I’m not a betting man, but if I were, I’d want my odds to be a bit better than that situation. It goes without saying that this was a life-changing event.”

Dr. Jenkins brought in David Levine, MD, FACC, independently practicing cardiac electrophysiologist on the medical staff at Methodist Dallas. Dr. Levine placed an implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD) in Sorrell’s chest to monitor his heart rhythm.

“Should he experience a dangerous heart rhythm, the ICD would automatically resuscitate him,” Dr. Levine says. He adds that Sorrell’s case is unique, because ICDs are usually for patients with a foreseen risk. “There was no way of anticipating such a condition for Michael.”

Taking the heart to heart

Michael Sorrell – Sudden Cardiac Death Success Story
Fortunately, the ICD hasn’t needed to be put to use, but Sorrell has put his second chance at life to good use.

He’s made changes to both his lifestyle and college. For example, Paul Quinn College’s cafeteria now serves fewer sugary drinks and incorporates organic vegetables grown in the campus’ football-field-turned-garden.

“I’m a better husband, a better father, a better college president, and a better man because of this experience,” he says. “For the journey that I had to take, I’m just grateful to have had a hospital like Methodist Dallas by my side. I don’t underestimate that.”

Sorrell’s 4 healthy habits

Michael J. Sorrel, Esq., has a goal: to live to be 85! To help get there, he adopted these heart-healthy lifestyle changes:

From the spring 2013 edition of Shine magazine.

  1. Solid sleep. “I always used to think that people who needed a bunch of sleep were losers, that they weren’t tough enough,” Sorrell says. “Now I’m in bed by 10:30
    every night and up by 5:30 a.m. to exercise.”
  2. Decent diet. While Sorrell always had a healthy diet, he realized there was still room for improvement. He traded skim milk for almond milk, sugary cereals for muesli, and red meat for lean white meats. He holds the mayo, passes on pork, and drinks almost a gallon of water a day.
  3. Walking. Six days a week, Sorrell gets up early and walks for about an hour around his north Oak Cliff neighborhood. “I love it,” Sorrell says. “It’s just me, my thoughts, my music, and the outdoors.”
  4. Setting boundaries. “I used to work 16-hour days, 7 days a week, for months at a time,” Sorrell says. He still works hard, but he strives to come home at a reasonable hour to spend quality time with his wife and son.