Recovering from Heart Failure: Darlene Roeder's Story

Darlene Roeder has led a lively, fascinating life. Born and raised in Sandusky, she left her native city in 1979 to pursue a variety of business opportunities ranging from livestock auctions to pawn shops in Idaho, Washington, Colorado and Florida. The 71 year-old mother, grandmother and great-grandmother returned to Sandusky in 2005 to be closer to family.

Although retired, Darlene immersed herself in her hobbies, including ballroom dancing, painting and traveling.

“I’m the type of person who can’t wait to get up in the morning because there are so many fun things to do,” says Darlene in describing herself.

So last January when she began feeling tired all the time, she could not understand what was wrong with her.

“At times I was so tired I couldn’t get off the couch. I thought maybe that’s what happens when you turn 71. I was making all kinds of excuses for my lack of energy,” she recalls.

She no longer could ignore her condition when she woke up one night unable to breathe. Frantic, she propped herself on a pillow, thinking that would help. When she still found no relief, she went to the Firelands Regional Medical Center Emergency Room. She was admitted and underwent several tests over the next few days. An ultrasound of Darlene’s heart revealed that the bottom half was only ejecting 20 percent of the blood that was being pumped into it. Her diagnosis: congestive heart failure.

Congestive heart failure occurs when the heart's pumping power is weaker than normal. With heart failure, blood moves through the heart and body at a slower rate, and pressure in the heart increases. As a result, the heart cannot pump enough oxygen and nutrients to meet the body's needs. The chambers of the heart may respond by stretching to hold more blood to pump through the body or by becoming stiff and thickened. This helps to keep the blood moving, but the heart muscle walls may eventually weaken and become unable to pump as efficiently. As a result, the kidneys may respond by causing the body to retain water and salt. If fluid builds up in the arms, legs, ankles, feet, lungs, or other organs, the body becomes congested, and congestive heart failure is the term used to describe the condition.

In terms of signs and symptoms of congestive heart failure, Darlene's biggest warning signs were extreme fatigue and the inability to breathe.

As a part of the process for recovering from heart failure and for improving her ejection fraction, Darlene takes several medications and has adopted a salt-free diet. She must also strictly monitor her fluid intake and closely watch her weight to insure that she is not retaining water. To help her recover from heart failure, Darlene’s cardiologist, Scott Sheldon, DO, of North Ohio Heart Center, referred her to the Firelands Heart Failure Clinic.

According to Jim Spicer, Pharm.D., C.A.C.P., former Heart Failure Clinic operations director, the clinic staff works together with heart failure providers to provide optimal management of their patients.

“Evidence has shown that outpatient heart failure clinics reduce morbidity, mortality and health care costs. The clinic focuses on patient education and adherence in an effort to reduce hospital readmissions and improve patient quality of life. Our goal is to empower and educate patients to help them and their physicians better manage their condition.”

recovering from heart failure: congestive heart failure patient stories

The Road to Recovering from Heart Failure

For Darlene, the Heart Failure Clinic has been a lifesaver for recovering from heart failure.

“I was enjoying life, having a good time when the rug was pulled out from underneath me. I wasn’t sure what to do and I was scared. The people at the Firelands Heart Failure Clinic have been wonderful. They answer all my questions, check my blood pressure and make sure I’m not retaining water. I take all the classes offered on medications, nutrition and exercise. I always feel better mentally and physically when I leave the clinic.”

Because of her faithfulness to recovering from heart failure with her medications and diet, Darlene’s heart function has enhanced, improving ejection fraction from 20 to almost 50 percent. As a result, she is once again enjoying her many interests and hobbies. She is painting a series of scenes capturing her childhood growing up on Big Island, east of Sandusky; is planning a trip to the Caribbean and spends weekend nights dancing with her friends at various area venues. She is studying Spanish and taking creative writing classes as well as volunteering at Stein Hospice.

“The Heart Failure Clinic has helped me so much. I don’t know what I would do without it and the wonderful staff who work there,” says Darlene.

See more congestive heart failure patient stories and learn about the heart services at Firelands Regional Medical Center today.