Shirley’s Story

Shirley's story includes her beloved furry pal

Shirley’s story featured in a TAUW campaign video began with a major heart attack — something most women would not expect at age 54.

“I was in the prime of my life,” says Shirleyanne Johnson of Broken Arrow.

A “widow-maker” heart attack on June 20, 2016 led to a heart transplant November 7, 2016. Shirleyanne received the heart of a young man who died in a car accident.

To make matters worse, Ely, a registered Therapy Dog who was her Therapy Partner and companion for 10 years, died five days after her transplant . He was the inspiration behind Project Ely, a Therapy Dog outreach program she founded in 2006.

Shirley’s story continued, thankfully, with a successful transplant followed by six months of cardiac rehabilitation. But her most difficult challenge lay ahead.

“I had to use a walker to get from the car into my house, and soon found myself becoming isolated,” she recalls.

“I thought I was too young to go to a senior citizens center,” she says.

Now 56, she is BA Seniors’ youngest member and one of its most dedicated volunteers. Far from being homebound and tethered to a walker, she participates and even teaches fitness classes three days a week at BA Seniors.

“My health challenges led to financial challenges,” she said. “BA Seniors offers various activities at a low cost.”

She also is enrolled in the Bags to Mats class in which members use a loom to transform plastic shopping bags into sleeping mats for homeless individuals. She participates in a crochet class where members make afghans and caps from donated materials for community members in need.

Shirleyanne now has a new Therapy Dog, Sarah Belle – a Great Pyrenees similar to her beloved Ely. Together they continue the mission of Project Ely along with ShortStuff, her other Therapy Dog.

“I don’t know where I’d be without BA Seniors. They offered me a lifeline, which allows me to fully pursue my second chance at life.”

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