Community Healthcare System Cardiovascular Research held its 15th Annual Hearts of Hope Ceremony at St. Mary Medical Center in Hobart on Thursday, Feb. 13. The event is the capstone to the Hearts of Hope campaign which raises funds for cardiovascular research at the hospitals of Community Healthcare System. Culminating in a tree lighting in which each bulb shines in honor or memory of those who have battled cardiovascular complications; the event celebrated life while raising awareness about heart disease and its latest therapies and treatments.
At every Hearts of Hope ceremony, a patient-physician pair shares their story of overcoming heart disease. With this year marking the event’s 15th anniversary, the program has been expanded to include three physicians and four patients.
“The proof is in the pudding; these patient testimonials really inspire us as a local community hospital,” said Janice Ryba, St. Mary Medical Center CEO. “We need to have this research and technology available to the local community because when you have a heart attack, you’re usually going to a local hospital. As we heard in these speeches, having those resources can be lifesaving.”
Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States. A heart attack can hit even if you have never felt any chest discomfort before.
“If it wasn’t for St. Mary Medical Center, I wouldn’t be here,” said Kym Thiel, a patient and guest of honor at the ceremony. “I never went to the doctor before. I’d come home from working outside construction, got something to eat, and then my body just didn’t feel good. Something wasn’t right.”
She had a friend bring her to the Emergency Department. Even though she was feeling a little bit better by the time they got to the hospital, she played it safe and went in for a checkup.
“Next thing I know, they’re coming in and telling me I’m having a heart attack,” Thiel recalled. “They [physicians] said we’ve got to go now, and that was the last thing I remember about it. I coded and I can’t remember anything about the next five days.”
Thanks to cutting-edge technology available through St. Mary Medical Center’s commitment to cardiovascular research, Cardiologist Kais Yehyawi, MD, was able to save her life. Thiel is already looking forward to getting back to work. Stories like hers are not uncommon at the hospital.
Another patient, Billy Ray Pierce, said he owes everything to Electrophysiologist Samer Ajam, MD, who joined him at the podium.
“Speaking here is one of the proudest moments of my life, because this man saved my life and saved my wife,” Pierce said. “This is the best doctor and best hospital in the world with the best surgical staff. They even sent me a card, thanking me for being treated! Have you ever heard of a hospital that good? I think of this man as my own son, I’d do anything for him.”
Cardiologist Nazzal Obaid, MD, also participated in the Hearts of Hope event. He invited two of his long-time patients-Dennis Durkin of Crown Point and William Temecko of Hanna-to discuss their experiences being treated by Dr. Obaid and the heart care team at St. Mary Medical Center.
Obaid told the audience that he sees the lights on the Hearts of Hope Tree as being representative of the relationship between light which enables trees to grow and thrive, and the trees themselves which support life by creating oxygen and a livable environment.
“Light is life and life is light,” he said. “The contribution of everyone here tonight is certainly giving light to life and life back to light.”
The Hearts of Hope tree will remain lit until the end of February. St. Mary Medical Center’s 2020 heart month fundraiser is called “15 for 15” with a goal of raising $15,000 for cardiovascular research.
“All of the funds will help us offer access to clinical trials that could potentially help our patients,” said Chris Sheid, director of Marketing and Community Relations at St. Mary Medical Center. “One of those trials could be a solution that saves a life.”
To learn more about St. Mary Medical Center and the other hospitals and services of Community Healthcare System or to donate to the system’s cardiovascular research program, visit www.comhs.org/donate.