“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.
The 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.