One year ago this week. Sherry Barr got a call that would change her life. Her husband, the former Sangamon County Sheriff Wes Barr, had died of a heart attack while working on his boat. It came as a shock, seemingly without warning.
“Wes was actually really healthy. He had high blood pressure, but he’d had it for years with never any issues,” she said. “He was on two medications and the doctor had taken him off one because he was doing so well.”
But his blood pressure was high again when he visited the dentist just days before his death. His doctor was notified and his doctor put him back on the prescription. Still, no one suspected a heart attack was looming for the 56-year old.
“Afterward, we were talking about it and everyone was saying he had no signs,” Sherry said. “And then I said, he did. For about a month, he had indigestion. We didn’t realize that was a sign.”
“I had an incident and he told me to go get it checked. It turned out to be indigestion. So when he got it, we thought oh, it’s indigestion.”
But an upset stomach can be a warning, along with dizziness, pain in the upper body and shortness of breath. Some also experience extreme tiredness, especially women. Sherry is working with Prairie Heart Institute to spread the word. In her husband’s case, he never mentioned any other symptoms.
“We thought it was the other way around, that when you thought it was your heart, it would end up being indigestion,” she said.
Through her loss, Sherry has raised awareness that may have saved other lives. “I had been posting on my Facebook page. A dear friend of ours, he went to work. He thought man, I’ve got indigestion. I’ve had it for a couple of days. He remembered me talking about what happened to Wes and he went to the hospital.”
Turns out, the man had 90-percent blockage in an artery, known as the “widow maker.” It was the same blockage found in Wes Barr.
Sherry is also maintaining her husband’s legacy of giving back to the community, or as she puts it, an effort to “keep his goodness going.” The Heart of Wes Barr raises money to help social service agencies and law enforcement, along with causes benefitting veterans and animal protection. The money is kept in Sangamon County. She believes her husband of 24 years would be pleased.
“That’s what Wes lived for. When I get to Heaven I want my Savior to say, well done good and faithful servant, and I want my husband to say, I’m so proud of you.”