Mary Greeley Foundation Newsletter | February 2020

Joe Carswell doing Cardiac Rehab at Mary Greeley Medical Center.

Through the Front Doors

As a construction engineer at Mary Greeley, Joe Carswell knows all the back hallways and staircases to get to different departments quickly and easily. He knows everyone and everyone likes him and the services he (and his colleagues) provide – keeping the facility looking great and running smoothly.

In December, he got a wheelchair ride in the front door of the Emergency Department. His experience provided a whole new perspective on how Mary Greeley approaches the big and small work of caring for patients.

Joe is young – only 47 years old and his practice of Reiki, a Japanese technique for stress reduction and relaxation that also promotes healing, helps him stay in tune with his body and health. When he started feeling a pressure in his chest, he brushed it off. Then later, pushing his facility / construction cart around the hospital to do his job made him physically exhausted, he decided to call his physician. From there, things moved pretty quickly. From a stress test to the Emergency Department, Joe then got a ride to the Cath Lab where the team discovered significant blockages in four of the arteries leading to his heart.

Joe and his care team decided on open heart surgery which took him to a medical facility down the road for a nine-day stay. Joe explained, “I received good care but it wasn’t Mary Greeley level good. Every day at work I see how Mary Greeley nurses, patient care techs, food service and environmental service workers – everyone on staff – treat our patients and their families. I truly understand now that all of the protocols we have in place are really important to help put our patients at ease. Things like seeing everyone who walks in the room wash their hands on the way in and the way out, each person explaining what they are doing and answering my questions, asking if there is anything else I need and happily doing their best to accommodate the request. These are all things that happen at Mary Greeley. It is our standard and expectation. From a patient perspective, those ‘small things’ make an enormous difference.”

Joe is still off work and participating in cardiac rehab. He is looking forward to getting back to work with a new perspective. “As a Mary Greeley employee, donor and now patient, I have a better understanding of our work. Some of that work is behind the scenes and some is visible to all but each person has the opportunity to make a difference. I’m grateful to be a part of that.”

Randy Siebens getting his blood pressure checked during Cardiac Rehab at Mary Greeley.

Third Time’s a Charm

Randy Siebens is familiar with the Cardiac Rehab team at Mary Greeley – very familiar. He has been through rehab three times and now feels better than ever.

In March 2015, while celebrating his 15th wedding anniversary, Randy had a major heart attack. In his mid 40's and in seemingly good health, he was expecting a full recovery after participating in 32 sessions with the Mary Greeley cardiac rehab team. Despite hard work and compliance, this heart muscle did not completely recover. That summer he received an Implantable Cardioverter Defibrillator (ICD), and all seemed well.

Unfortunately, his heart continued to fail and in the summer of 2018 doctors implanted a Left Ventricular Assist Device (LVAD). Known as a "bridge to transplant", this gave them more time and ability to control his various issues, but not before returning to Mary Greeley for another 32 sessions of cardiac rehab. Between the cardiac rehab team, LVAD, and doctors, Randy was healthy enough to undergo a heart transplant later that year. All went well, and within a month of the transplant Randy was back for yet another round of cardiac rehab.

His first two rounds of rehab included asking a lot of questions about heart healthy eating and exercise. The goals included decreasing pulmonary pressure and increasing activity to improve strength. His third time in rehab included more of the same plus a focus on anti-rejection protocol. His new heart is acting differently from his old one – which is good!

“When I started, I wasn’t sure what to expect,” explained Randy. “The cardiac rehab team provides comprehensive support, are ready to help and make all the hard work and change fun.”

Mary Greeley understands the importance of education and offers an extensive nursing certification program. Currently two of the cardiac rehab nurses have additional certifications and one other, Gina Smith, is working on becoming a Certified Cardiac Rehabilitation Professional (CCRP). Gifts to the Foundation help make this possible. “The CCRP training, offered through the American Association of Cardiovascular & Pulmonary Rehab, is another way of providing the best possible care to our patients,” explained Gina. “This certification will help take my nursing skills to the next level. I’m so grateful for this opportunity and can already see how this extra training is helping make cardiac rehab the best possible experience for our patients and their families.”

Carrie Adams from Cardiac Rehab demonstrates to a patient how to effectively use their pill box.

Tools for Success

“We are so proud of our work helping people stay out of the hospital and in their homes. Gifts from Foundation donors help us make that happen.” – Carrie Adams, Cardiac Rehab Clinical Supervisor at Mary Greeley.

Keeping people out of the hospital? Why would Mary Greeley want to keep people out of the hospital? Because it’s the right thing to do.

Mary Greeley’s cardiac rehab team is made up of Registered Nurses who become case managers for many of the 150+ rehabilitation patients they see each year. In addition to helping patients learn how to exercise and eat for optimum heart health, they also build relationships. These relationships allow nurses to learn road blocks that increase the likelihood of re-occurrence of illness or re-admittance into the hospital. Things like access to care, financial barriers, or having multiple chronic illnesses to manage can be very overwhelming.

“Our team is here to help,” explained Carrie. “Even simple things like giving a patient a pill box or scale (provided by gifts to the Foundation) can help.” Cardiac patients often take multiple medications each day – sometimes as many as 20 to 30! A pill box and coaching on how to organize everything can help reduce mistakes and increase compliance. Weighing daily, especially for those with congestive heart failure, is a very important tool to monitor health. As weight fluctuates, patients can assess how their eating is impacting their overall well-being, especially salt intake. Mary Greeley is also fortunate to have another Foundation supported option to offer patients. Free counseling sessions with Iowa State University Psychology PhD students are made available. This service helps patients and their families cope with all of the changes and stressors that often accompany heart diagnoses and chronic disease.

“It feels great to know we are helping people live their most functional life,” Carrie shared. “We tell our patients they are an alumni of cardiac rehab when they finish their program. If they ever need us again we will be here but we don’t want to see them back as a patient. When that successful transition happens, we know we have given them the tools to be successful and we love it!

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