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Augusta Health helps heart failure patients stay the course

Diana Amick, who was diagnosed with heart failure, works with Savannah Young, an exercise physiologist, in Cardiac Rehab.

Augusta Health’s Heart Failure Clinic has helped Diana Amick learn self-sufficiency and kept her out of the hospital

On July 30, breathing problems sent Diana Amick, a retired nurse, to the Emergency Department.  She was connected with cardiologist Christopher Bunn, DO, received testing and had a stent placed.

“I think I met Dr. Bunn on his first day of work at Augusta Health; I may have been his first patient in the hospital,” Amick says. “I kept him busy.”

Amick was also diagnosed with heart failure, and before she left the hospital, she was connected to Tami Collins and Emily Back of Augusta Health’s Heart Failure Clinic, and it was the start of a successful relationship.

Her first appointment was less than a week after Amick’s discharge from the hospital. They met every week for four weeks, then every other week. Later the schedule moved to once every three weeks, and currently Amick has monthly appointments with the Heart Failure Clinic.

“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. I have many complications and many doctors, and Tami and Emily connect and keep in touch with them. They are also very patient with me and my brother [who helps take care of me]. Working with them is a very positive experience.”

Amick appreciates the guidelines Collins and Back have provided to help her learn to manage her symptoms by herself. For example, she’s learning to track her weight, what she eats and how much walking she’s done. She knows that she may gain a little bit of weight, but if she gains more than two pounds in one day, she should give Tami or Emily a call to discuss what’s going on and if she needs to be seen. “The guidelines are simple: If this happens, you need to do this,” explains Amick. “That makes it easy. You just need to follow the guidelines.”

The recovery process has not been without challenges.

In addition to the Heart Failure Clinic, Amick participates in cardiac rehab three times each week and has appointments with various providers. A calendar to keep everything straight helps with that. The more difficult challenges have to do with managing her weight. “Going out to eat is a definite challenge,” she adds.

But the benefits have more than compensated for the challenges. She appreciates the reassurance of having someone to touch base with and discuss her symptoms, whether in person or on the phone. The guidelines and the monitoring have helped her learn to be more self-sufficient and improve her health. “You do repeat steps each day, but it’s a confirmation of how well you’re doing,” Amick says. “I’m proud that I’m taking the effort to get out and get better and improve my health. And I think it’s working. Many heart failure patients are back in the hospital within 30 days. I’ve been out for more than five months.”

Get more information about the Heart Failure Clinic at augustahealth.com/heart/heart-failure-clinic.