“Blessed are those who go in circles, for they should be called a wheel,” 81-year-old John Hahn said with a chuckle.
The former pastor and retired antique tractor seat salesman isn’t one to run in circles, even more than two decades after his first heart attack and two subsequent heart attacks. The later attacks weren’t as severe, but they did require stents.
John’s then-cardiologist, Eric Orme, M.D., recommended John’s heart receive a technological upgrade.
“I was on the exam table and Dr. Orme rolled his chair to me, looked me in the eye and said, ‘John, you are a No. 1 candidate for a pacemaker and a defibrillator,’” John said.
Heart health hasn’t been perfect for John, of Craigmont, Idaho. Once he was driving to Coeur d’Alene for a procedure when his blood pressure skyrocketed and his passenger took the wheel.
“My blood pressure was too high,” said John, who was taken to Kootenai Health’s emergency department. “I said, ‘I’ve got a heart problem’ and it wasn’t five minutes and they had me in a room. Within 10 minutes there must have been 10 nurses and doctors in there.”
Dr. Orme was John’s cardiologist from his first heart attack in 1995 until 2018, when Dr. Orme went part time and dedicated his practice to heart failure. He continues to consult for Heart Clinics Northwest.
Dr. Orme said John has lived a rewarding yet activity-limited life while living with chronic heart disease.
“After a series of cardiac events more than 20 years ago, John’s condition stabilized,” Dr. Orme said. “The success John has had involves the successful medical and surgical treatments we can now offer patients.
“Equally important has been John’s compliance and his curious nature,” Dr. Orme continued. “He always brought a list of questions to his office visits. It was clear he wanted to know about his health and he wanted to do everything reasonable to make things better. John is an optimist, with a great spirit, determined to get the most out of life.”
When Dr. Orme suggested the defibrillator and pacemaker, John said he recalls Dr. Orme saying the average lifespan after installment was about 10 years.
“I asked, ‘What am I doing here 25 years later?’ He said, ‘You’re very, very blessed,” John said. “I give the good Lord and the heart doctors 100% of the glory.”
John’s relationship with Kootenai Health includes life-changing health milestones. He is now a patient of certified physician assistant Gretchen Foley at Kootenai Heart Clinics in Lewiston. He has been so moved by her care that he made a donation to the Kootenai Health Foundation in Gretchen’s name.
“She is an absolute sweetheart and deserves the recognition,” he said. “I was a pastor for 20 years, Church of the Nazarene. We were always taught to be giving and generous. Recognizing people is important. There should more of that.”
When she heard about the donation, it made Gretchen’s day.
“I work in heart failure. It is exhausting and overwhelming at times, particularly when no treatment plans seem to work for your patient and you have to venture with them down the hospice path,” Gretchen said. “When I can help patients understand their chronic disease process, educate them about what to expect and help them better manage their symptoms, it makes the difficult days more rewarding.
“The relationships I form with my patients in this setting are really important. It means a lot to know that even the smallest difference matters greatly in their eyes.”
When it comes to heart health, Dr. Orme provided the following tips.
- Be optimistic that great medical and surgical therapies are available for heart disease.
- Being compliant with your therapies is crucial to your success. Many people live full, satisfying lives while living with heart disease.
“Also, be like John,” Dr. Orme said. “Be curious about your health, your condition and its treatments. Ask questions of your doctors, make sure you understand what’s going on and what you can do about it. Stay enthusiastic and optimistic about your health.”
February is American Heart Month: Check Your Cardiovascular Health
- High blood pressure – Has no symptoms and can’t be detected without being measured
- Cholesterol – Can be controlled though lifestyle changes and medication
- Body weight and Body Mass Index – Indicate healthy body weight and composition
- Blood glucose – Indicates diabetes.
- Coronary CT angiogram – Provides detailed images of arteries of the heart.
Kootenai Heart Clinics are in Coeur d’Alene, Post Falls, Sandpoint and Lewiston. Visit: http://www.kh.org/heart-services/kootenai-heart-clinics-northwest/.