Heart and Vascular Center

Patient Testimonials

Ramona's Story

In the words of a congestive heart failure patient, enrollment in the St. Joseph Hospital Heart Failure Program is “life changing.”

This past spring, Ramona (at left) came into the ER and was admitted for Coronary Heart Failure. “I had gained weight and I couldn’t walk or breathe,” recalls Ramona, who is a former smoker and diabetic. When she was admitted to the hospital, her glucose level exceeded 400. She hadn’t been feeling well but hadn’t gone to see a doctor.

Before leaving the hospital, Ramona and family members met Heart Failure Program Coordinator Sarah Atchison, R.N., BSN, PCCN (Above, left). Sarah taught Ramona about changes she could make to her diet, and gave her literature to take home. She took the advice to heart. Four months later, Ramona’s blood sugar was down to 133, and she no longer required insulin. She has lost 70 pounds, including a lot of fluid, and with a portable oxygen device is able to take walks and do Tai Chi. She’s back to playing Bingo. Ramona is looking forward to rejoining the choir at the Tustin Senior Center, and attending her 55-year class reunion in Wyoming.

She credits Sarah with giving her tools to better health. “I follow a diet low in calories and sodium. Before I ate too many TV dinners and ate a lot of salt and sugar. Now I enjoy fish, chicken and turkey – but just the white meat. And I love fruit,” she says, adding, “I’m glad I’m still here!”

The mission of the St. Joseph Hospital Heart Failure Program is to equip patients and families with the tools necessary to manage heart failure so that they may live a good quality of life and minimize time spent in the hospital.

Goals for the program include:

  1. Enroll those patients who have advanced-stage heart failure, known non-compliance issues or are deemed “high risk” for hospitalization
  2. Facilitate the utilization of interdisciplinary services such as Home Health, Palliative Care and Hospice.
  3. Heart Failure Nurse serves as a liaison between patient and physician in order to solve problems and promote health in a collaborative manner.
  4. Educate nursing staff throughout St. Joseph Hospital to provide evidence-based care for Heart Failure patients.
  5. Provide community education and outreach.

With a physician’s order and while the patient is still hospitalized, he or she is enrolled in the Heart Failure Program. At the first visit, an assessment is made which includes past medical history, a review of systems, history of present illness, medication reconciliation and vital signs. Education, a hallmark of the program, begins immediately, with spoken and written information provided on a low-sodium diet, smoking cessation, activity/exercise, daily weights, medications, symptoms of heart and failure and knowing when to call the doctor. Homework is given, based on individualized goals, and instructions for follow-up communication with the patient’s physician or clinic. Appointments are made for follow-up for continued monitoring and education.

A St. Joseph Heart Failure Discussion Group meets the fourth Monday of every month from 11 am to 12 pm in the St. Joseph Hospital Outpatient Pavilion board room, where clinicians and patients talk about lifestyle modification and education on matters pertaining to heart health.

“The Heart Failure program addresses the specific needs of patients who need additional support,” states Atchison. “The care they receive is evidence-based, following ACC guidelines.”

For further information about the Heart Failure program please call Clinical Coordinator Sarah Atchison at (714) 744-8858.

Brent's Story

"Having previously undergone six open-heart surgeries, I wasn't expecting too many differences during lucky number seven, although the location changed and the doctor line-up was different.

"A month earlier, I had an angiogram. The results led to the conclusion that surgery would need to be performed within the calendar year. I was promptly set-up with my surgeon-to-be, and I was very confident in him after we met.

"During the hospital pre-op appointment I quickly knocked out the required chest x-ray and blood draws. The hospital staff did a phenomenal job of educating me on my condition, what the current procedure was going to correct, what past procedures had corrected, and the future prognosis of my condition. They walked me through the recovery process, literally, as I toured the main entrance to the hospital, the pre-op area, intensive care, and the cardio-renal floor. They even discussed hotel options for my mother, who flew out to be with me. After spending 3.5 hours at the hospital, I felt in control of the situation, which relieved any remaining stress I may have had.

"On surgery day, everything went just as discussed. Later that day when I woke up from surgery I felt great, relatively speaking. That was a surprise because usually coming out of heart surgery I felt like a train wreck. The surgery went very smoothly and while recovery was tough, it wasn't the same degree as I had experienced in the past.

"I saw both the surgeon and cardiologist regularly throughout my week of recovery in the hospital. When it was time to check out I felt good; I didn't feel rushed or hurried to leave the hospital. The medical team helped me to understand my limitations and when the limitations would be lifted as well as any symptoms to watch for during my recovery at home.

"For any patients dealing with members of the Adult Congenital Heart Center at St. Joseph Hospital I would tell them that they will definitely receive excellent care from confident and knowledgeable medical professionals who are on the leading edge. Every step of my open-heart experience, from diagnosis, to pre-op, during surgery, and post-op, the Adult Congenital Heart Team at St. Joseph's took excellent care of me. "