Eastern Minnesota

Melody Gibson’s “Heart-felt” Story

Not one, not two, but three. That’s the number of heart attacks that Melody Gibson has outlived! She’s a survivor and wants to speak out about women and heart disease. Although her symptoms were classic signs of cardiac arrest, she believes all women would do well to brush up on their knowledge of heart disease.

According to the American Heart Association, women often experience early warning signs that are different from men. Chest pain and pressure are not always typical symptoms. Instead, women often suffer from neck, shoulder, upper back and stomach pain, shortness of breath, sweating, light-headedness, fatigue, and nausea. Using Heart Month as her platform, Melody, along with Saint Elizabeth’s Cardio-pulmonary Rehabilitation (CR) staff, used her story to raise awareness about women and heart attack.

Gibson was 49 when her first attack landed her in Saint Elizabeth’s Emergency Department. An EKG confirmed the need for a transfer to Rochester. Four days later, after a procedure that opened the narrowing of her blocked artery, she returned home with instructions to begin cardiac rehab.

“I didn’t make any changes in my life,” Melody confesses. “I guess I was in denial. I was too young to be dealing with heart disease and I didn’t want to make the hard choices to change. So, it was status quo for me. I didn’t exercise. I continued to smoke. I ate whatever I wanted.”

This decision finally caught up with her when a second heart attack came a calling in 2005 during the annual 85-mile garage sale. Melody, a longtime antique enthusiast, collector and retailer, found herself back at Saint Elizabeth’s, reliving an experience that was all too familiar. Melody’s second heart attack required the placement of one stent to widen an artery and keep it open.

Upon her return to Wabasha, she decided it was time to get serious about making some long-term life changes. She quit smoking, took her prescribed medications, and enrolled in Saint Elizabeth’s Cardiac Rehabilitation program. She exercised 3 days a week, attended health education classes, and made some dietary changes. Gibson remained true to this recommitment to healthy living for about 2 years. Then, slowly but surely – things started to slip. At first, she missed an occasional exercise session, then a few more. In time, she stopped going altogether. Her unhealthy eating habits also returned.

“At least I didn’t start smoking again,” she says. “Maybe I thought (a heart attack) wouldn’t, or better yet, couldn’t happen again. The fact is, I reverted back to my old ways, and I was going to eventually pay the price.”

On August 12, 2010, Melody suffered her third (and hopefully) final heart attack. Same symptoms but some additional complications resulted in a cardiac catheterization, the placement of another stent, defibrillator shock treatment to restore her heart to normal rhythm, and 3 days in the Intensive Care Unit.

“The doctors and nurses were very responsive, thorough and cautious,” says Gibson. “I was a nurse for almost 40 years, and worked in both ICU and ER in military hospitals during my husband’s active duty in the Army. I knew what to expect and what was going on. I had total confidence in the local emergency team. All three episodes began at Saint Elizabeth’s. The team of nurses was quick to respond. I remember Dr. (Phillip) Schwend, was in the emergency room at the time of my first visit, and Dr. (Jonathan) Baines cared for me the third time around.”

Phillip Schwend, D.O., a surgeon, and Jonathan Baines, M.D., Ph.D., a family medicine physician, are with Wabasha Clinic, part of Lake City Medical Center-Mayo Health System. They oversaw Melody’s triage and transfers. Jeremy Solberg, M.D., is Melody’s primary care physician, and has been instrumental in coordinating her care. “Dr. Solberg is very caring and compassionate,” says Melody. “He is a good doctor who shows his concern for his patients.”

“My gift in all this was the fact that no large vessels were affected or damaged,” she explains. By the end of August, Melody returned to Saint Elizabeth’s Wellness Center. This time, she believes, for a lifetime.

“It’s up to me to do everything I can to prevent another attack, and I know now that it’s not about short-term change. I have to live my life differently.” Three days a week, for 1 hour each morning, Melody walks on a treadmill, pedals a bike, or pumps on an elliptical. As she exercises, Melody is monitored by the staff. They check her vital signs regularly and track her progress.

“She has finished Phase II cardiac rehab and is now in our maintenance program,” says Kristy Schulte, CR specialist. “When patients first arrive, we monitor them more closely. The plan of care and rehab is individualized to meet the needs of each patient. We set goals and offer encouragement, resources and support. Education is very important during this phase. We want patients to understand that heart disease won’t go away but they can make lifestyle changes that will help them improve the quality of their life.”

“Arriving at 7 a.m. sets a good tone for the day,” admits Melody. “It has the feel of a social club. Patients and staff offer motivation and support. When I came back for the second time, it felt like I was being welcomed back by old friends. The staff wants you to succeed. They push you, but never past your limits. They are very protective.”

It’s been 5 months since her re-enrollment in the cardiac rehab program and Gibson is feeling its positive side effects – she’s lost 12 pounds, is stronger, and has more stamina. But she knows she can’t quit now. She can’t quit ever; she seems at peace with this. Melody Gibson cheated death three times and that’s enough. She’s got more living to do!

Fit City Seniors – A Healthy Living Prescription that Works!

Rarely does Bunnie Suilman miss a Fit City Seniors class. It’s become part of her healthy living routine.

Fit City Seniors Class led by Christina Mroz features exercises that build strength, endurance, balance and overall well being.

Bunnie Suilman embraces her age. At 81, she doesn’t let anything stand in her way. Not even a cracked pelvis! While her injury may have caused a temporary, inconvenient and painful interruption; it hasn’t hindered her quest for living life to the fullest.

An inaugural member of Fit City Seniors – an exercise class specifically designed for women and men, 55 and older – Suilman rarely misses a session. The group meets Mondays and Thursdays from 8:30 – 9:30 a.m. at Saint Elizabeth’s Medical Center. The program was established 4 years ago with the help of grant funding and community support. Fit City Seniors has continued to thrive due to a strong following, modest program fees, and subsidies from Saint Elizabeth’s.

Even during Suilman’s recovery, she didn’t skip a beat. Despite a 3-week hospital stay, lots of bed rest, and a regular routine of physical therapy, Suilman’s ultimate goal was to get back on her feet – even if it required the use of a walker and cane. Within no time, Suilman was “back in the saddle” and participating as she was able with her fellow Fit City friends.

“I just love Fit City Seniors,” she declares. “We have so much fun, and Christina and Lisa (instructors) are wonderful. They encourage us, but don’t push us to do any more than we feel comfortable doing. The program has really made a difference in my health. My balance and endurance have improved and so has my strength. In fact, my doctor couldn’t believe how strong I’ve become. When I was recovering from my fall, my dear friends, Bev Rice, Betty Hanson, and Lucille Roehrich always made sure I could get to class. I just hate to miss it.”

According to Fit City Seniors leader Christina Mroz, the program targets aging seniors who wish to age well. Chair aerobics, gentle strength training, balance exercises, even some yoga and meditation are elements used to improve range of motion, reduce pain, and increase flexibility. Every move is adaptable so seniors can participate at a level that is best for them.

“We try to motivate them to keep moving,” says Christina. “As we age, it’s so easy to let our aches and pains control what we do or don’t do. Often, seniors become sedentary because they lack the confidence to stay active or they are afraid that exercise will inflict more pain or injury. Fit City Seniors provides a fun and encouraging environment that can offer benefits to any member at any level.”

“It’s not all about exercising,” grins Suilman. “We all have a great time. We laugh, joke and carry on. The relationships and connections that have been built through this program are just as meaningful as the health benefits.”

Seniors interested in taking a “test drive” are welcome to give Fit City Seniors a try. Show up for class any Monday or Thursday for a trial run. Seniors wishing to join will receive enrollment information.

I.C.E = In Case of Emergency

Have you “ICE’d” your Cell Phone?

Nearly everyone these days carries a cell phone with names and numbers stored in its memory, but which of these numbers should be called in an emergency situation? The ‘ICE’ Campaign was conceived by a paramedic who identified an opportunity to initiate immediate communication with family members, loved ones or other emergency contacts. When responding to accidents or other emergencies, he’d often find a cell phone with dozens of names stored in the contact list, but no way of knowing which person to call.

ICE, the acronym for “In Case of Emergency,” is a simple and an effective code that can help first responders connect with those you’ve identified as emergency contacts. It’s becoming nationally recognized by police, sheriff, emergency medical services personnel and hospital staff.

Simply store the phone number or numbers in your cell phone contact list and name each contact ICE 1, ICE 2, ICE 3 and so forth. When victims are unable to communicate due to injury or illness, ICE will provide the lifeline that’s needed.

Help spread the word among family members and friends. ICE your phone today!

This community service message is brought to you by Wabasha Ambulance and Saint Elizabeth’s Medical Center.

Wabasha Riverboat Days

5K & 10K River Run
Free 5K Fitness Walk

Saturday, July 30, 2011
Star Time: 8 a.m. Registration begins at 6:45 a.m.
Run Registration Fee: $12
Optional T-shirt $8
Walkers are FREE!

Pre-register by July 25 to be eligible for a drawing!

  • $50 gift certificate to Running Room, Rochester
  • National Eagle Center passes – 4 pack

The course will be city streets including scenic Lawrence Boulevard along the Mississippi River. Refreshments will be provided after the race.

Sponsors include: Saint Elizabeth’s Medical Center with support from Scheel’s SuperValu, Eagle’s Nest Coffee Shop and Kwik Trip.

Ministry's Latest Social Activities
Facebook Twitter