Mary and Brandon trust NKCH’s accredited heart failure program to help them stay healthy and out of the hospital.
For Mary Maag, 84, managing heart failure is a lot like gardening — it involves time, energy and patience, mixed with a little frustration from time to time.
“My garden is my passion,” Mary said. “Once I got started, I never stopped.” The same can be said for how she cares for her heart failure. She received the diagnosis while recovering from open heart surgery, and she’s been going to North Kansas City Hospital’s Heart Care Clinic (formerly the Heart Failure Clinic) since it opened in 2013.
“I was in pretty bad shape, and the clinic’s staff put me back on my feet,” she recalled.
Mary visits the clinic every few weeks. Help with her medications, diet and symptoms is a big part of each checkup.
“When I start having trouble, I call the clinic,” she said. “The people are so knowledgeable and caring, and they help keep me out of the hospital. I can call with concerns, and someone is there to listen and offer guidance.”
“One of our goals is to reduce the time people spend in the hospital,” said David M. Hahn, MD, the Heart Care Clinic’s medical director. “We do that through frequent outpatient visits and direct access to nurses, nurse practitioners, dietitians, social workers and home health staff dedicated to treating the condition.”
Mary’s secret to successfully managing her heart failure is to watch what she eats. “I love going out to eat with friends, which sounds strange because of my low-sodium diet. But, I do my research, and I ask the server questions.”
When she started gardening, Mary learned as she went. The same is true for how she handles her heart failure. “Sometimes, it’s a bit scary. But, if you take care of yourself, you can live a long time with heart failure.” Watch Mary’s Story
“How much longer do I have to live?” That was Brandon Louis’ first thought after being diagnosed with heart failure two years ago at age 45.
Twenty-five years earlier, he had radiation treatment to cure Hodgkin lymphoma. The treatment cured the cancer, but damaged his heart valves. A heart attack further weakened his heart. He was recovering from open heart surgery when he was diagnosed with heart failure.
“After my surgery, my cardiologist recommended the clinic. I’ve been going since the beginning,” Brandon said.
The required lifestyle changes didn’t come easy for Brandon. “I was a fried food, meat and potatoes guy,” he said. “It was hard to eat more vegetables.” Over time, he changed his diet. “I rarely go out to eat. It’s easier for me to watch my sodium intake when I cook at home.”
Brandon praises the clinic staff for their role in keeping him healthy. “They keep an eye on me, so if there’s trouble they catch it sooner rather than later,” Brandon said. “They really care about their patients.” Because of his efforts and the clinic’s support, Brandon hasn’t been admitted to the hospital for over a year. “The clinic staff educates patients so they can manage the condition,” Dr. Hahn added. “It also gives patients confidence because they know they can have success with their diagnosis.”
Today, instead of worrying about his life expectancy, Brandon’s back to enjoying Chiefs games and watching horse racing. And, he’s thinking ahead to retirement. “If you have heart failure, give the clinic a chance,” Brandon advised. “Listen to what they have to say, and take it all in. It took me awhile to get on board, but once I did, it really helped.” Watch Brandon’s Story