Education & Prevention are Keys to Heart Health

Deb Carpenter - Heart Attack Survivor

The impact of a first-class community cardiac center is not something people always think about. But when such a facility is needed, its value becomes completely clear.

Before Oct. 17, 2006, Deb Carpenter of Lewistown had been unaware of any serious heart problems, though her cholesterol was rather high. In fact, she’d been to see her family doctor just the previous July, and he found no evidence of trouble.

“He said that if I’d been lined up with eight other women, I’d have been picked out as the least likely one to have a heart attack,” Carpenter recalls.
Fifty-five years old in 2006, she was in the midst of an aerobics routine when it became clear something was indeed wrong. “Earlier in the day my legs felt heavy, sort of sluggish. Then the back of my neck got ice cold, and I was lightheaded and sick to my stomach.”

Feeling worse, she made her way to the office of her husband, Rev. Bernard Carpenter of Lewistown’s Bethel AME Church. She took a couple of aspirins, laid down on the floor, then got up and got sick

Her husband took her directly to the Geisinger-Lewistown Hospital emergency room. “When I’m afraid, I keep my eyes closed, so I can’t talk about what I saw – but I know what I heard. They got me hooked up and told me right away that I’d had a heart attack.”

By this time, Carpenter was under the care of Dr. Ketankumar Sheth, one of three board-certified cardiologists on staff at Geisinger-Lewistown Hospital. Dr. Sheth arranged for Carpenter to have two stents inserted at PinnacleHealth in Harrisburg, a procedure that was accomplished in less than an hour. When she returned to Lewistown, he took charge of her recovery.

Carpenter spent five days in the hospital. She’d had a 100 percent blockage on the right side, and two smaller ones, and even after her discharge, concerns continued. “That was when they talked to me about getting started on the rehab program,” she says.

The cardiac rehabilitation team at Lewistown focused first on education, Carpenter says. “Then they had me walking on the treadmill while being monitored. Eventually I’d do a little bit more until I built myself up.”

The importance of the education was the lesson Carpenter learned from the experience. Learning to take her pulse was just a refresher course – she is a Licensed Practical Nurse – but other parts of this instruction were useful in advancing her recovery. “They helped me think about eating properly, and taught me the signs to look for that can mean trouble. They’re very informative out there.”

The proximity of Geisinger-Lewistown Hospital Cardiovascular and Pulmonary Services was heartening – as was the fact that comprehensive services of the highest caliber were available in one place. With two or three sessions a week over a 12-week period, Carpenter’s recovery gathered momentum. “I was a little afraid at first, but by the second phase of the rehab I was doing well, working out on my own. It becomes a place of safety – if anything should happen, they can take care of you right there. They’re very sensitive to your needs, and that’s super important to a good result.”

Carpenter singles out Dr. Sheth for special praise in connection with her recovery. “I really like him and I have a lot of confidence in him. I think he’s been instrumental in helping me stay with the program.”

Following through on lifestyle changes under the guidance of Dr. Sheth and the rehab team has made a big difference. “I feel good today, and I’m very thankful to be alive. No question that my faith in God also helped me in many ways.”

“Sometimes you slip a little bit, but I’m careful about diet, stress reduction, and exercise. If you don’t want it to happen again, you’ve got to listen.”