How our Heart Failure Nurse Navigator saved one woman’s life and how you can provide the critical support to keep the program going.  Read more here.

I was drowning in congestive heart failure – and Shelly helped save my life!

Shelly is one of Washington Health System’s Heart Failure Nurse Navigators.

Last summer, after cleaning the barn on my farm, I started to have a hacking cough.  The cough didn’t get better, and then I had trouble breathing when I walked. I went to a walk-in clinic, and they misdiagnosed me with double pneumonia.  They gave me a Z-Pack, steroids, and breathing treatments.  The breathing treatments were the worst possible thing for what I actually had.

Days later, my legs and feet swelled.  My husband and I returned to the clinic, but the physicians said it was a side effect of the medication.  That night, my breathing turned into a gurgle, and I couldn’t walk.

I made it to my doctor’s office early the next morning.  My doctor called the ambulance – I was grey and in distress, trying to gasp every breath!

I was in a life or death situation.

My life changed in an instant.  I was always healthy. I didn’t smoke.  I wasn’t overweight.  I had never medically been in a hospital, and I had never taken a pill in my life.

All I could think – I had a husband, six kids, and three beautiful granddaughters!

At the hospital, I learned that I had congestive heart failure.  My heart was so damaged that it only pumped at 20% of its capacity.

To keep me alive, I had to leave the hospital with a portable defibrillator vest which I wore all the time…  and I was enrolled in Washington Health System’s Congestive Heart Failure program.  The support of Shelly, my Heart Failure Nurse Navigator, helped guide me and keep me out of the hospital so many times in the months after that, and she still does today.

For me, having heart failure was a complete shock.

At the beginning, my husband and I knew nothing about heart failure.  There were so many questions and so much to take in – tests, medications, diet changes, monitoring my blood pressure and weight.

Shelly took the time to explain everything to us. She gave us her number, too, and her number was a lifeline from the very first day I came home.

The next morning, I became unresponsive.  My husband called 911 first and then Shelly.  When I came to at the hospital, Shelly was already there in the Emergency Department – on a Saturday!

When I had a question about medications, I called Shelly. She not only understood what each medication was and what it does, she could explain it.

When I forget a question I wanted to ask the doctor, I call Shelly, and she can answer it.  Shelly gets through to my cardiologist when he’s busy and has an answer in no time.  And Shelly calls as soon as the results of my weekly bloodwork and testing came back.

I have been very lucky because the damage to my heart was caused by high blood pressure and my heart function has improved.  I don’t have to wear the defibrillator vest anymore.

But I still have heart failure, and Shelly is still my Heart Failure Nurse Navigator.
Most people believed that only older people have congestive heart failure.  But that’s not true.  I try to teach everyone I meet to take their blood pressure seriously, read labels, and watch their sodium intake.

If I can save someone else’s life – You can save someone else’s life, too.
The Heart Failure Nurse Navigator program is just one important program Washington Health System offers to our community free of charge.  Insurance and government doesn’t pay for any of it.  And Washington Health System doesn’t charge.

Will you make your contribution and support the programs that saved my life?

Will you decide to save someone else’s life, too?

Thank you for choosing to help others in need!