Staunton News Leader
Published 7:55 AM EST Feb 6, 2019
FISHERSVILLE – Diana Amick found herself at Augusta Health's Emergency Department last summer when she started to have trouble breathing.
During her visit, she was connected with Christopher Bunn, a cardiologist who ran tests and then placed a stent to help prevent her coronary artery from closing up.
Amick was diagnosed with heart failure.
Before she left the hospital, she was connected to nurses Tami Collins and Emily Back at Augusta Health’s Heart Failure Clinic. The clinic works with patients to help them feel better and stay out of the hospital.
Heart failure is a progressive condition which occurs when the heart can’t keep up with the body’s need for blood and oxygen. As heart failure worsens, a person may experience symptoms such as fatigue, shortness of breath, swelling or a racing heartbeat that sends them to the doctor’s office or hospital.
While it is a serious condition, and there is no cure, much can be done to manage heart failure so those with the diagnosis can live a full life. Two key components of care – monitoring symptoms and patient support – are available through the clinic.
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The Heart Failure Clinic opened last summer and now has over 120 patient visits each month. Patients range in age from less than 40 years old to more than 90 years old. Some have chronic heart failure and others are in acute heart failure. They’ve been referred to the clinic after being diagnosed in the hospital, by their family physician or cardiologist.
“Our first visit with a patient is 60 minutes long,” says Tami Collins, clinic staff nurse specializing in adult-gerontology acute care. “Then we follow them weekly for four weeks, with a 30-minute appointment each time. We may manage their medications, help them reduce their fluid retention, order labs or perhaps an echocardiogram, whatever is needed to evaluate their condition. We also do a lot of education and answer all their questions so they understand what symptoms they should be aware of and what they should be monitoring.”
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“Patients learn to monitor their symptoms during the week between visits, and a lot can happen during that week,” adds clinic staff nurse Emily Back. “So we encourage the patients to keep in contact with us and let us know how they’re doing. Are they gaining weight or swelling? Is their blood pressure stable? Are they waking up breathless? The condition is complex, and it’s important that the patients know we’re here for them to help them manage it.”
Patients spend four weeks with the clinic, and if they are able, the visits shift to weekly sessions over the following months.
“Others choose to be connected to a primary care provider or be followed by the cardiologist,” says Collins.
Throughout treatment, patients can call both nurses anytime at the clinic with questions or concerns.
“Tami and Emily are fantastic,” says Amick. “They are very thorough and check everything – blood pressure, weight and fluids. We discuss medications and any adjustments that are needed.”
Both nurses are presenting a free Lunch and Learn session open to the public on noon Wednesday, Feb. 13, at the Augusta Community Care building at Augusta Health. To make reservations to attend, call (540) 245-7900.
“I have many complications and many doctors,” says Amick. “They are also very patient with me and my brother, who helps take care of me. Working with them is a very positive experience.”
For more information about the clinic, call (540) 245-7080.
Heart Health Fair
February is Heart Health Month and Augusta Health's annual Heart Health Fair is scheduled early morning this year to accommodate those who need to fast to check glucose levels.
The event is 7-10 a.m. on Thursday, Feb. 13, at the Augusta Health Fitness center in Fishersville.
Free health education and screenings include carotid artery, stroke assessment, sleep assessment, blood pressure, glucose levels and pulmonary function tests.
For the glucose levels test, no food or liquid except water eight hours prior. A cholesterol lipid panel blood test is $10. Pre-registration required for carotid artery and pulmonary function test. Call (540) 245-7910 to register.
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Reporter Monique Calello can be reached at [email protected]