For years, Laura Sayers knew something was wrong with her heart. “My heart would go wild and start pounding for no good reason,” she said. “I went to the doctor many times and they gave me medicine but nothing stopped the pounding.”
“I knew something was wrong,” Sayers said. “I could see my heart pounding through the fabric of my shirt. It was terrifying.” During a visit to the emergency room, her husband, James, insisted on further investigation. Thankfully, the physician working with Sayers agreed. “He suspected something was wrong and he said he would get to the root of it.”
And he did. Shortly after that visit, Sayers was diagnosed with atrial fibrillation and congestive heart failure. She received her first pacemaker and was given medication to help with her condition. In June 2015, she needed an upgraded pacemaker and more medication. Still, Sayers did not feel like herself. “I was on so many medications, my stomach hurt,” she said. “I felt vaguely sick all the time. All I could do was sit.”
All that changed when Sayers was referred to MidMichigan Health’s Heart Failure Clinic. Developed in collaboration with Michigan Medicine, the health care division of the University of Michigan, the Heart Failure Clinic is based on best practices for treating patients suffering from chronic congestive heart failure. The program is designed to assist patients in monitoring responses to treatment, modifying behaviors, adjusting medications, coordinating care with their cardiologist and primary care provider and facilitating referrals for advanced heart failure treatments.
Sayers worked with Family Nurse Practitioner Jennifer Dankers, M.S.N., F.N.P.-B.C. “I’ve been with her since this past spring and she has changed my life,” Sayers said.
Dankers has helped Sayers understand and better manage her condition. “The first time I saw Jennifer, my husband went with me and we were both impressed by how thorough she was,” she said. “She had a plastic model of a heart and she used that to explain everything to us. We found out so much in that first meeting about what my heart was doing and not doing. I understand things a lot more now.”
One of the first things Dankers did was modify her medications, Sayers said. “She took me off three meds and put me on one instead; she said it would help rebuild my heart.” The 83-year-old quickly felt much better. “I felt like I was me again, and my stomach didn’t hurt,” she said. “It feels so good to feel good again.”
Sayers’ heart health is monitored with imaging and blood testing to keep her atrial fibrillation under control. “In less than a year, I’ve seen a real difference in my health,” Sayers said. “I enjoy life; I enjoy taking care of myself and my husband and being able to do my own work. I just enjoy having my health back. I feel like I have a new lease on life.”
Sayers is deeply grateful to the specialized team of providers at the Heart Failure Clinic. “I’m very thankful for how caring they are,” she said. “I’d tell anyone who needs help to see them as quickly as you can. I promise you’ll feel better. I’ve been helped so much by the people there, I’m happy to share my story with anybody.”
MidMichigan Health offers a full array of heart and vascular services, including open heart surgery, vascular surgery, electrophysiology for heart rhythm procedures and advanced interventional procedures. Those who would like additional information about heart failure or MidMichigan’s Heart Failure Clinic may visit www.midmichigan.org/heartfailure.