Your Health Today Magazine

Heart Failure Clinic: Safe at Home

Jeff Cole, heart failure patient

Jeff prepares to work behind the plate at a baseball game at John Burroughs School. St. Anthony's Heart Failure Clinic Fast Facts: More than 600 patients enrolled Average patient increase in ejection fraction (heart pumping ability): 15 points Average hospital readmission rate for Heart Failure Clinic patients: 3.3 percent National average readmission rate for heart failure patients: 23 percent

Cardiac Staff Helps Jeff Cole Beat a Life-Threatening Condition

Heart failure is the inability of the heart to pump enough blood to meet the body's needs.

Jeff Cole's family history is full of ninety-year-olds, all with healthy hearts.

So, when he encountered problems breathing after returning from a Florida vacation in September 2012, Jeff and his family doctor assumed the problem was bronchitis. Despite treatment, the symptoms didn't go away. After administering an EKG, the doctor suggested Jeff travel by ambulance to an emergency room.

Jeff, 60, drove himself to St. Anthony's Emergency Department, where he was taken upstairs for an echocardiogram and, to his surprise, gained a cardiologist. He received good care during his stay, he said.

“They checked me into the new cardiac floor – it's really nice,” he said.

Jeff was suffering from cardiomyopathy, or a weakening of the heart muscle, with congestive heart failure, said St. Anthony's Cardiologist Charles Carey, M.D. His ejection fraction, or heart-pumping ability, was only 10 percent. The average normal heart has an ejection fraction of 60 percent.

Statistically, one out of nine patients hospitalized with heart failure does not survive past 30 days, said Dr. Carey. “Patients, in my opinion, need to know the seriousness of their condition, so they can be important team members in taking care of their health,” Dr. Carey said. “What I tell patients is, their prognosis is worse than most cancers if their heart failure is left untreated, about 25 to 30 percent one-year mortality.”

Jeff doesn't – and didn't then – look like a man with heart failure. “I've never hurt and never felt bad – just fatigue,” he recalled. “I could go out in the yard and piddle in the garden for 15 minutes and take a two-hour nap. Dr. Carey said I probably picked up a virus that attacked my heart.

“Dr. Carey was always up-front with me, which I appreciated,” Jeff added. “I asked, ‘What are my chances if I do everything you ask?' Eighty-five to 90 percent.”

Jeff underwent an electrical cardioversion, or a shock to his heart to restore it to a normal rhythm. After a catheterization and stress test showed no blockages or heart attacks, Dr. Carey prescribed a regimen of medicines, including beta blockers, angiotensin converting-enzyme (ACE) inhibitors and aldosterone antagonist.

“Today, Jeff's ejection fraction is in the range of 55 to 60 percent, which is normal,” Dr. Carey said. “His heart has become stronger, which eliminated the need for a special type of pacemaker called a defibrillator. His prognosis right now is very good.”

Now retired, Jeff oversees work at his two family farms, serves as umpire for high school baseball and softball games, enjoys hunting and fishing, and travels with his wife of 30 years, Christine.

“I take my medicine, go to the gym and use the treadmill, and watch my diet,” Jeff said. “I lost a little weight, and plan to do more. I consider myself really fortunate that my heart has improved.”