Program helps patients cope with congestive heart failure

July 16, 1999|By MEG H. PARTINGTON

With the help of loved ones and her own perseverance, Rosalee Mills is enjoying a higher quality of life.

Mills, 75, of Hagerstown, enrolled in the congestive heart failure program at Washington County Hospital in April 1998. Her daughter-in-law, Beth Mills, suggested she attend and accompanied her to the weekly sessions, along with Mills' son, Douglas Mills.

[cont. from lifestyle]

"This has given me a second lease on life. I just feel great," says Mills, who was diagnosed with congestive heart failure several years ago.

Since last year, Mills has lost 40 pounds and continues to exercise in the cardiac rehabilitation facility at the hospital for one hour, three days a week.


"It's a great place to make friends," says Mills, who comes to the facility after work at Bags By Mimi in Hagerstown.

For years, Mills struggled with medical problems, including a bleeding ulcer and asthma attacks. After completing the two-month program, she felt so much better that she decided to keep coming back for exercise.

"Why give up a good thing?" she says.

Ken Guessford had a heart attack in 1984 and was diagnosed with congestive heart failure in 1991.

He was struggling to keep food in his stomach and to breathe while visiting Las Vegas in May. He was flown to a hospital in Dallas, where he spent four days. Doctors determined that medication had built up in his system.

After spending four more days at Washington County Hospital, Guessford decided to enroll in the congestive heart failure program.

"I'm not really scared now," says Guessford, 55, of Falling Waters, W.Va. But the Vegas episode scared his wife.

"He doesn't realize how close I was to losing him in Dallas," says Nancy Guessford, who attends the classes with him.

Arlillian Scott became ill while living in California and moved to Martinsburg, W.Va., in January to live with her daughter.

Through the congestive heart failure program, she says she's learned the importance of eating well.

"This class has you looking on the paper (labels) of everything," says Scott, who is 83 but says she feels 16.

Ken Guessford agrees.

A diabetic, he is used to watching his sugar intake, but now he also has to watch out for salt.

"Anything that doesn't taste good, I can eat," Ken Guessford says jokingly.

Walter Kohler, 73, of Hagerstown, was diagnosed with congestive heart failure before Memorial Day. He felt pressure in the back of his head and in his midsection and was having trouble walking. He lost 15 pounds in three days after fluids were drained from his body.

"I feel all right now. I don't feel that pain anymore," says Kohler, who walks 15 to 20 minutes almost every day.

* Congestive heart failure is a chronic condition in which the heart can't pump enough blood to meet other organs' needs.

* Its causes include weakness of the heart due to a previous heart attack or other undefined problems; leaky or narrowed heart valves; and stiffness of the heart muscle, frequently due to age.

* Symptoms include shortness of breath while lying flat, lower tolerance of activity due to shortness of breath and swelling in the legs.

* Medicines used to treat congestive heart failure include Digoxin, which improves the strength of the heart's contractions; diuretics, which remove fluid buildup through the kidneys; Angiotensin Converting Enzyme (ACE) inhibitors, which reduce resistance against which the heart pumps; and beta blockers, which decrease the levels of epinephrine-like hormones that can exhaust the heart.

* An estimated 4.8 million Americans have congestive heart failure.

* The annual number of deaths caused directly by congestive heart failure rose from about 10,000 in 1968 to about 42,000 in 1993.

The Herald-Mail Articles