Ask Thomas Simrell about the resolution he made, and he’ll tell you:
“The way I feel now, I have to do one thing good a day so I can stay alive another 10 years.”
“I love to live,” added the 81-year-old Scranton man who is eager to return to his volunteer work serving food at the St. Francis Soup Kitchen.
The retired railroad employee took a major step to increase the likelihood he’ll be around to spend time with his family — and perform more good deeds — by allowing a team of medical professionals at Geisinger Medical Center to implant a Medtronic CoreValve into his aorta.
His surgery marked the 100th time since June 2011 that Geisinger staff completed that particular type of surgery, and as interventional cardiologist Dr. Kimberly Skelding explained, it was an honor to be chosen to participate in clinical trials for the patented device.
The Medtronic CoreValve is attached to a wire frame that expands inside the body after it has been guided to the right spot by a thin, flexible catheter. The procedure is minimally invasive, and Simrell happily reports he is recuperating nicely.
“I had the surgery on Dec. 3,” he said. “On Dec. 4 I went out in the hallway and walked a mile and a half. On Dec. 5 my daughter came down and picked me up, and we went downstairs to the operating room. It was filled with doctors and nurses. They had a nice cake for me, and they were all clapping.”
The valve relieves such symptoms as chest pain, dizziness and shortness of breath and has a good safety record, Skelding said.
“I think it’s exciting to be able to offer this technology to our community. We can bring world-class care to our own backyard. There shouldn’t be a reason to leave the area for care.”
While breakthroughs in technology and treatment are important in the fight against heart disease, health-care professionals and patients alike know the average person can take low-tech steps to make his or her heart healthier.
“Walk 30 minutes every day of the week,” Skelding advised. “Eat more fruits and vegetables, less fried foods and red meat.”
“See your primary-care physician or a general cardiologist on a regular basis, look for risk factors like blood pressure, blood sugar and cholesterol and maintain a healthy weight.”
On a recent Wednesday morning we caught up with some people at the YMCA in Wilkes-Barre who were working on those goals through a program called “Exercise In the Cardiac Direction.”
The flexible program adapts to an individual health situation. Do you have diabetes? Have you had heart surgery? Do you carry an oxygen tank? Whatever the circumstances, professionals will guide you to work out within safe limits.
Gordon Lisowski, 57, of Wilkes-Barre, is a diabetic with neuropathy in his legs, which prevents him from using a treadmill. He began a recent workout with a cardio session on a bicycle. Halfway through, Dee Sabia, R.N., a nurse with an office at the Y, checked his vital signs to make sure all was well.
Meanwhile, Diane O’Hara, 74, of Forty Fort, who had surgery a few months ago after her doctor discovered a heart murmur, worked out on a treadmill before switching to a weight machine.
“I’m trying to build endurance,” said O’Hara, an avid gardener who, busy with rearing children and keeping house, admits it had been years since she exercised in a gym.
After she’d used the treadmill for a while, YMCA health and wellness specialist Linda Reilly tested O’Hara’s heart rate and oxygen saturation level. At 78 and 98, respectively, both numbers were good.