Helping Hearts support group saving lives - - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News

Helping Hearts support group saving lives

Released by Good Shepherd Medical Center:

LONGVIEW - In order to provide information and support to cardiac patients, Good Shepherd hosts a highly successful support group, "Helping Hearts." The group was established by cardiac cath lab nurses 13 years ago to provide patients an outlet to share concerns and learn how to prevent additional cardiac episodes. These dedicated nurses have volunteered their personal time and energy to provide support to heart patients and their relatives.
"The nurses in the Cath lab felt so close to their patients that they decided they wanted to follow up on their care and wanted to offer them expert guidance on keeping healthy and preventing any future heart problems," said Missie Pirtle, director of cardiovascular services. "This is how Helping Hearts was born and I am so proud of the nurses and technicians in my department - their extraordinary commitment to their patients and their drive to help the entire community of Longview and surrounding areas is exactly what a hospital like Good Shepherd is all about."

In the past, patients who have received any kind of intervention or cardiac procedure - from angiograms, angioplasty and cardiac stents to major open heart bypass surgery were invited to join the group. Today, Good Shepherd would like to invite any area resident who is diagnosed with heart disease or who has experienced a cardiac episode to join them. Educational topics related to cardiac care are presented and the group shares and provides support to one another.
Pam McRae, RN, was one of the group's founding nurses. After almost 20 years of service, the veteran nurse says working in Cardiology has been the toughest but the most rewarding job of her career. She was inspired to establish Helping Hearts by caring for her patients. "We would hear patients screaming in excruciating pain and so often they would bring me to tears because I knew it was a life or death situation for some of them. They were so appreciative of us that we couldn't help but build a bond with them. So I decided with the others that we should keep in touch with them because we also knew that they needed more education and information about heart disease. No one can get enough information in the short time they're in hospital."
McRae, who even gave her home number so patients could call her any time of the day adds, "Helping Hearts is so important because it breaks down barriers. Patients have so many questions after this type of surgery and by giving them information, they are able to ask the right questions that can literally save their lives."
Helping Hearts is flourishing with the commitment of current cath lab nurses who lead the support group, Elaine Naville, RN and Melissa Rapp, RN. These nurses invest their personal time to schedule speakers and even arrange for refreshments themselves. As one of the hospital's largest support groups, members often decide topics for their bi-monthly meetings. Over the years, guest speakers have included experts on diet, medication control, heart echo technology, as well as Good Shepherd's expert cardiologists.  
In an inspirational circle of good will, some of the patients who received diagnostic heart care at Good Shepherd and benefited from the support of the Helping Hearts group have elected to volunteer their time to help others who are hospitalized with similar diagnoses.
79 year old Evelyn Moore has been working for the last five years on the same Cardiac Care floor where she recovered after receiving heart bypass surgery in October 2002.
"Helping Hearts is the reason I'm alive today. The fellowship and friendship of nurses and other patients means everything to me. I had eight catheters, angioplasty and then open heart surgery all in one year. There were times I was so afraid and weak, but thanks to the nurses and physicians who treated me so wonderfully I made it. They cared for me way beyond the call of duty and their encouragement and support gave me the stamina and drive to pull through."
Evelyn recalls one recent occasion when she was proud to make a difference: "This poor man had just had bypass surgery and he was so sure he was never going to get over it, but I told him I had walked in his shoes and I was alive and he would be just fine. His daughter later thanked me and said I had shown him the light at the end of the tunnel. This is what Helping Hearts is all about."  
Retired Longview postman, 78 year old Glen Brown, experienced a silent heart attack in 1992 and joined Helping Hearts at its inception. He has been volunteering at the Heart Center desk and other areas within the facility ever since.

He says he just wanted to give back to the hospital: "The way the doctors and nurses looked after me couldn't have been better. Because I needed to know what happened to me, the doctor explained everything. I would need an angiogram which was a device that went through my groin. He explained how they would use angioplasty to widen the arteries."
He adds, "There was a time when people would travel to Houston or Dallas, but I wouldn't go anywhere else.  Why should I when we have the best care here at Good Shepherd."

Helping Hearts' first meeting in 2010 will be held on January 21st from 6 to 7 p.m. in the Medical Plaza, 5th Floor, Room 1. The guest speaker, Jason Astrin, PA-C, will be discussing another groundbreaking first for the region, Good Shepherd's new Congestive Heart Failure Clinic.

For more information about the Helping Hearts support group or Good Shepherd's Congestive Heart Failure Clinic, please call Good Shepherd's Healthy Hotline at (903) 315-4747.

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