With chocolate-covered strawberries, healthful lunches and red balloons, Methodist Mansfield Medical Center is encouraging patients and their families to show a little love to their hearts.
Nearly 600,000 Americans each year die from heart disease, the leading cause of death in this country. The Mansfield hospital, which has performed 577 open-heart surgeries since it opened in 2009, is undergoing a multimillion-dollar expansion designed not only to treat more critically ill cardiac patients but also to provide exercise and education opportunities to help area residents lead healthier lifestyles.
The $118 million patient tower, expected to open within the year, will feature a specialized heart operating room and dedicated cardiac unit. Besides providing advanced cardiac care, Methodist Mansfield is expanding its hospital kitchen to offer healthier dining options and is considering opening a cardiac rehabilitation unit where patients can work out and learn about proper nutrition, medication and other health education topics.
“Our plight in hospitals is sometimes is we’re known as ‘That is where you go when you are sick,’” Methodist Mansfield President John Phillips said. “We also want to be known as the place people can come for information, for food, for exercise and for education to remain healthy to avoid being admitted to the hospital.”
Every 34 seconds, someone in the United States suffers a heart attack. That adds up to about 720,000 people each year. Diabetes, hypertension, high cholesterol, smoking and a family history of heart disease are the top five factors.
“When you have at least one or two of those, you are at higher risk for heart disease yourself. The biggest thing for prevention is to get that annual check and make sure all those five risk factors are in check,” said nurse practitioner Emily Forbes, who works with Methodist Mansfield’s cardiac patients. “I don’t think people realize how much diabetes affects heart disease. If you’ve got an uncontrolled diabetic that comes in and has to have open-heart surgery, they are higher risk for complications.”
To increase awareness about heart health, hospital staff and volunteers handed out more than 250 red, heart-shaped balloons last week to patients and visitors and shared information about reducing the risks of heart disease. In the cafeteria, hospital chef Eladio Ollarzabal prepared fresh salads with a range of heart-healthy toppings, such as walnuts, dried cranberries and mandarin oranges. Chocolate-dipped strawberries were offered as a treat.
A salad bar is an easy way for diners to test which vegetables, fruits, cheeses and even nuts they may add to their diets, said Kate Tompkins, a registered dietitian at the hospital.
“This is really great of way of getting new ideas on how to eat a salad,” said Tompkins, who said adding proteins like salmon and grilled chicken can turn a side salad into a satisfying whole meal. “It’s not just cucumbers, tomatoes and ranch dressing.”
Don’t die of doubt
Methodist Mansfield also promoted the American Heart Association’s new community awareness campaign, Don’t Die of Doubt, which encourages people to call 911 at the first sign of a possible heart attack.
Only 40 percent of people who experience a warning sign of a heart attack call 911, according to the American Heart Association. Some choose to drive themselves to the hospital, which may delay potentially lifesaving treatment up to an hour, the association’s website says. The campaign encourages people to learn the warning signs, which can include shortness of breath, chest pain or discomfort, nausea, a cold sweat and even discomfort in the neck or jaw, so they know when to call 911 for help.
“Calling 911 is your best option. It’s not just a transportation system anymore because we are able to start treatment in the field. EKGs are transmitted to the hospital so the team is ready for them before they even arrive,” Forbes said. “You need to get that blood supply open back up within 90 minutes before [heart] muscle starts to die.”
Susan Schrock, 817-390-7639
When to call 911
The American Heart Association encourages people to call 911 when experiencing these heart attack warning signs:
▪ Chest discomfort. Most heart attacks involve discomfort in the center of the chest that lasts more than a few minutes, or that goes away and comes back. It can feel like uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness or pain.
▪ Discomfort elsewhere in the upper body. Symptoms can include pain or discomfort in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw or stomach.
▪ Shortness of breath with or without chest discomfort.
▪ Other signs may include a cold sweat, nausea or lightheadedness.
Source: American Heart Association