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“Heart” With a Little Help from Our Friends

“Where’s your heart?”

That’s what Barbara Brown’s grandchildren asked her after she had open heart surgery at Lexington Medical Center.

They were talking about the heart-shaped pillow that each heart surgery patient receives. Members of the patient’s care team sign it. And, sometimes, the surgeon draws on the pillow to explain the patient’s condition and how to fix it.

“The heart was a lifesaver,” Brown said. “I’d hug it after surgery and it made me feel more secure.”

The Lexington Medical Center Foundation provides the heart pillows, which are designed to support the chest when
patients cough or sneeze after surgery and to help them remember not to use their arms when standing and walking.

The pillows add some emotional comfort, too.

LMC_010914_0118The retired Lexington County middle school math teacher’s heart troubles began early in 2013 when she experienced pain running down her arm while on a treadmill. She was also borderline diabetic, had high cholesterol and a history of heart disease in her family.

The problems multiplied one day when she was walking at Riverbanks Botanical Garden in Columbia with a friend.

“It felt like there was an elephant on my chest.” And her face was as pale as a ghost.

A cardiac catheterization at Lexington Medical Center revealed two blocked arteries. Brown underwent open heart surgery at the hospital on July 18, 2013, two days before her 63rd birthday.

After surgery, she began the hospital’s Cardiac Rehabilitation program, taking classes about nutrition and healthy eating, and working out on treadmills, bikes and elliptical machines in Lexington Medical Center’s nationally accredited cardiac rehabilitation facility.

“The thing I liked most was knowing that I was being monitored,” Brown said. “I felt confident knowing they were watching me.”

Statistics show that cardiac rehabilitation participants experience a 34 to 46 percent reduction in death rates compared to non-participants. Benefits also include reduced symptoms, increased energy, quicker return to work and leisure activities, and improved quality of life.

Cardiac rehabilitation is so important that the Lexington Medical Center Foundation offers scholarships to people in need who do not have the resources to pay for it. And the hospital’s Foundation pays for a DVD library to educate cardiac rehabilitation patients, flat screen televisions for the gym and waiting area, scales for patients to use at home, and tuition for smoking cessation classes.

These days, Brown eats healthy, keeps a food journal and exercises 30 minutes daily. She also takes care of two of her grandchildren two days per week. They like to play “hospital” in her house and hand her the heart pillow.

“You need your heart,” they tell her.

The Lexington Medical Center Foundation provides important programs and services that help people in our community, including cancer patients. Please consider giving to the Lexington Medical Center Foundation during the Central Carolina Community Foundation’s “Midlands Gives” challenge on May 5. Learn more at MidlandsGives.org.

Ask the Doctor: Coronary Bypass Surgery

Dr. Dee Prastein, heart surgeon at Lexington Cardiovascular Surgery, was invited to be a guest on WIS-TV to talk about coronary bypass surgery. The topic was in the news after Bob Coble, the former mayor of Columbia, suffered a heart attack and underwent a bypass procedure.

In the first segment, she talked about how bypass surgery is performed.

In the second segment, she discussed recovery.

Lexington Medical Heart Center has performed more than 800 open heart surgeries since the program began in 2012. For more information, visit LexMed.com/heart

The Doctor Is In: Women and Heart Disease

From raising children to maintaining busy work schedules and keeping up with household chores, women’s lives are more hectic than ever. Women often put everyone else in their family first, but it’s important that they take time for their own health.

Dr. “Dee” Prastein, heart surgeon at Lexington Cardiovascular Surgery, a Lexington Medical Center physician practice, talks about women and heart disease, encouraging all of us to “Just Say Know.”

Prastein_Labcoat_Standing_ORWhat differences have you noticed between men and women with heart disease?
Women tend to delay things, living with heart disease longer and presenting later. We see women who go about their routine chores while having chest pain or chest discomfort, ignoring or dismissing it. Sometimes they live with symptoms until they become so tired that they physically can’t do anything. It’s only then that they see a doctor.

What do women tell you about why they didn’t see a doctor sooner?
They seem to be focused on everyone except them. They put their families first. We see wives encouraging their husbands to see a doctor, but women often live with symptoms until they can no longer hide them.

How can heart surgery be different for men and women?
Women do really well with heart surgery because they seem to tolerate pain better than men. Also, older patients often tolerate pain better than younger ones.

How does smoking affect our hearts?
Nicotine causes hardening of the blood vessels, making them more stiff and narrow. That hardening of the arteries makes blockages more apparent sooner. You could say nicotine is the opposite of nitroglycerin, which allows blood vessels to become bigger.

What about diabetes?
With diabetes, high levels of sugar in your bloodstream allow the buildup of plaque in every blood vessel in your body, including the arteries in your heart.

What message do you have for women about heart disease?
I want women to know that it’s not normal to have no energy or to have chest discomfort such as pain or burning. If you do, see your doctor. Women who smoke, have a family history of heart disease or have diabetes should be especially careful. Don’t ignore symptoms. We can treat them and prevent a major heart attack.