Parkwest heart patient enjoys life after 90 percent blockage
There’s tired, and then there’s “teacher tired.” That’s what Polly Justus, 62, calls the kind of exhaustion that comes from managing children in a classroom all day.
A kindergarten teacher for 40 years, Justus was accustomed to being “teacher tired,” so when she experienced a lack of energy she wasn’t particularly concerned. It wasn’t until her annual checkup that Justus found out her exhaustion might be a symptom of a serious condition.
Her physician “picked up on something that she had a question mark about,” Justus says, “and she referred me for a chest X-ray.”
The results of the chest X-ray weren’t conclusive, but were enough to cause concern. Justus was referred to cardiologist Nicholaos Xenopoulos, MD. While a stress test and echocardiogram didn’t show anything significant, Dr. Xenopoulos determined it would be wise to perform a heart catheterization before closing her case.
The heart cath revealed a 90-percent blockage of the left anterior descending coronary artery, a totally occluded right coronary artery and chronic diastolic heart failure. Her heart was weak.
The blockages were too large for stents, so Dr. Xenopoulos referred Justus to cardiovascular/thoracic surgeon Michael Maggart, MD, who recommended a cardiac bypass procedure.
“I thought about it for a few minutes and I decided that was the way to go,” Justus says.
Justus was in better physical condition than she had been in years, having recently embarked on a slow but sure weight loss journey. Taking care of herself was paying off – she would be stronger and better able to handle the surgery ahead.
“I just turned it over to the Lord,” says Justus. “I said, ‘Here I am, do what you want to do.’”
Dr. Maggart successfully performed the bypass procedure in 2016 and Justus was hospitalized for about a week. A month or so later, after transitional care, she was referred to Parkwest Cardiopulmonary Rehabilitation.
Karen Adams, RN, CCM, case manager at the center, says patients are prescribed a program of education and exercise to help their recovery and improve their odds for avoiding future visits to the hospital.
“Patients meet with a case manager for evaluation, and usually follow a rehabilitation schedule of three days a week for three months,” Adam
s says. “This includes meeting with an exercise physiologist for a program specifically tailored to the patient’s personal needs and ability.”
That exercise can include treadmills, arm ergometers, stationary bicycles, elliptical machines, weights, and steps. Each patient wears a heart monitor and is constantly being evaluated. The exercise program is updated as the patient progresses.
CROP also includes classes that cover topics like cooking heart-healthy foods and interpreting what’s on food labels at the grocery store. It’s a well-rounded approach to helping heart patients.
“It boosts their confidence level, too,” Adams says, “and lessens their anxiety.”
It’s a time consuming process, but one Adams says has proven time and time again to be a worthwhile investment.
“He was very patient and very kind, he gave me some really good advice and I followed it through,” Justus says. “I intended to get better.”
Today Justus is encouraging others to make health a priority, and she’s recommending Parkwest Medical Center and Parkwest Cardiopulmonary Rehabilitation to others. “When they say that slogan, ‘Treated well. Well treated.,’ they mean it!” she says.