Care from the Heart: One Woman's Journey to a Healthier Heart During a Pandemic
L’Ornya Bowie, 51, of Germantown, never thought she would need cardiac rehabilitation – much less during a pandemic.
In 2006, she was diagnosed with congestive heart failure. She kept an eye on her numbers and they improved, including her ejection fraction, or, EJF – the percentage of blood being pumped out of the heart. But in January 2020, L’Ornya’s blood pressure spiked and she suffered from severe nosebleeds. Her primary care physician referred her to Dennis Friedman, MD, an interventional cardiologist with Adventist HealthCare Shady Grove Medical Center. After several tests, he determined that L’Ornya’s EJF had dropped again, to well below normal.
Treatment for congestive heart failure includes medication, fluid management, dietary changes to limit salt intake and exercise. Dr. Friedman referred L’Ornya to the Center for Fitness and Health at Shady Grove for cardiac rehabilitation. In March 2020, she had her first appointments. Shortly after, COVID-19 hit and the center had to temporarily close under the state’s orders, L’Ornya says the staff never missed a day of checking in.
“I was amazed at how well they translated my care from in-person to virtual,” L’Ornya said. For the first few months of the pandemic, her care included daily check-ins with the staff and a weekly virtual visit.
“At the beginning of the first COVID-19 surge, we had to shut down, but that didn’t mean our care could stop. Our patients needed us,” said Amy Hernandez, nurse practitioner with the Heart Failure Clinic at the Center for Fitness and Health. “We immediately started having telehealth visits for our patients so that there was no delay in their treatment.”
If patients did not have internet access or smartphones, the clinic loaned them a tablet for the appointments.
Also, caregivers sent scales, blood pressure cuffs, pulse oximeters and other equipment to patients’ homes so they could take vital signs every day. If patients needed bloodwork, the clinic staff arranged for visits from Adventist HealthCare Home Health or provided it in the clinic parking lot.
“Even though we weren’t in person, I was able to do all the same checks and assessments that I would have done if they were in the
clinic,” Amy said. “It was pretty seamless – so much so that our numbers all remained steady with no increase in readmissions at the hospital.”
Last June, when COVID-19 positivity rates fell and gyms could have partial capacity, the Center for Fitness and Health reopened. L’Ornya had some hesitations.
“At first, I was scared to go anywhere, let alone a hospital or a medical facility,” she said. “But then I came to realize that because of all the measures they were taking, it was one of the safest places to be.”
Those COVID-19 safety measures included limiting capacity, pre-entry temperature checks and symptom screenings, wearing masks, and encouraging patients to sanitize their hands during their appointments.
CARE BEYOND THE CLINIC
L’Ornya completed her sessions in August 2020, but her journey to a stronger heart has not stopped.
“I lost 25 pounds, I try to exercise three to five times a week and I feel really good physically,” she said.
L’Ornya said that on top of wanting to be healthier for herself and her family, she owes it to the team at the Center for Fitness and Health to continue her heart health journey.
“They invested so much of their time and energy into me. They went above and beyond their job – they treated me like family,” she said. “I realized that if they can care that much about me, then I absolutely need to care that much about myself.”