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The Power of Hope & Community

One man's story and experience with The Iowa Clinic Cardiology Department.


Your Local Health | Written by BJ Towe

The chest pain occurred intermittently over several months. By the end of June 2014, the pain intensified.

“For two days, [the pain] would come and go. Sometimes it was severe. I just put it off, thinking it would go away,” recalls Jonathan Lister, 81, of Ankeny. When the pain traveled into his arms and back and beneath his shoulder blades late on June 27, 2014, he knew the pain wasn’t going to go away on its own. He awakened his wife Betty around midnight and headed to Iowa Lutheran Hospital’s emergency room.

An EKG showed that Lister was having a heart attack. Within minutes, A. Nasser Khan, M.D., a Cardiologist with The Iowa Clinic, was at his side. Lister says, “I recall him saying something like ‘Get him into the cath lab. We’re going to put a stent in.'”

Things moved fast. His three children – Steve and Pat Lister, and Lisa Livingston – arrived and waited outside the cardiac catheterization lab with their mother while Dr. Khan performed an emergency procedure lasting about 45 minutes. By inserting a balloon and stent, Khan opened the most severely blocked coronary artery, which caused the heart attack. The open artery would help his heart pump normally again.

Khan also found several other blocked arteries, which would need to be surgically bypassed as soon as Lister was stronger.

“Doctors were hoping he would be able to go home for 30 days, do some therapy, and then return for the bypass,” says Lisa. But continuing heart issues meant bypass surgery couldn’t wait. On July 8, 2014, at Iowa Methodist Medical Center, Brian Rundall, D.O., a Cardiothoracic Surgeon with The Iowa Clinic, performed a successful, nine-hour cardiac bypass operation.

Partially because of Lister’s age, recovery was difficult. A series of setbacks kept him in hospitals for the next three months – pneumonia, gastrointestinal bleeding and, subsequently, additional surgeries. He ultimately spent time in three different UnityPoint hospitals and underwent three major surgeries and three minor ones.

His family never left his side.

A STORY OF HOPE

When you talk with Lister, one thing is clear: He’s driven by his faith and family.

He talks about wanting to be a part of his children’s and six grandchildren’s lives, and how he hopes to witness their successes. For example, at the time of his heart attack, he was focused on the next milestone event – his oldest grandson’s graduation from pharmacy school at the University of Iowa in May 2015.

“It’s the role of family to see a grandchild reach a milestone like that. It’s something I felt I had to do,” Lister says. “I want to do the same for the next grandchild, and the next … ”

Steve adds, “It was all about family. Dad wasn’t ready to stop being with us.”Dr. Khan says that positive attitude was important to his eventual recovery: “When patients are looking forward to something and believe they’ll work through [their medical event] and get better, we see many cases where they do.”

A STORY OF COMMUNITY

Throughout Lister’s hospitalization, virtually everyone he knew rallied with support – his family, doctors, nurses, housekeeping staff, social workers, hospital valet staff, friends, members of his church, and many, many others.

“All of these people fell into place exactly when they needed to,” says Lisa.

“What impressed me the most was I felt [The Iowa Clinic] physicians really took all of us under their wing and, as bad as the situation was, they never gave up hope,” she says. “The team of doctors we had was awesome at working together. The nurses, they became our friends. Everyone really cared about Dad.”

Steve agrees: “Dad wasn’t just a number, he wasn’t just a patient; he was unique. The doctors and staff treated him that way. That’s what made our family feel we were in the right place.”

A STORY OF GRATITUDE

In what Betty calls “a miracle that we got to witness,” Lister was released from the hospital on September 24, 2014. After participating in a six-month cardiac rehabilitation program, Lister proudly watched as his grandson Ryan Lister received his diploma at the University of Iowa on May 7, 2015.

Now he attends his grandchildren’s ballgames, goes for haircuts from his hairstylist-granddaughter, and travels to Minnesota to watch his granddaughter ice skate. “He’s out running around every day,” Lisa says.

Steve adds, “Our story shows the power of people coming together – and of how we all worked together.

“The one thing I want people to learn from our journey is to listen to your body. [If you have symptoms] go in and get checked out,” he says.

HOW HOPE AIDS HEALING

“Hope” is a vague concept. And yet, when it comes to providing physiological benefits, it’s very specific.

According to the author of “The Anatomy of Hope” and professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, Jerome Groopman, M.D., “Researchers are learning that a change in mindset has the power to alter neurochemistry.

“Belief and expectation – the key elements of hope – can block pain by releasing the brain’s endorphins and enkephalins, mimicking the effects of morphine. In some cases, hope can also have important effects on fundamental physiological processes like respiration, circulation and motor function,” Groopman said. (1www.cnn.com/2013/04/11/health/hope-healing-enayati/)

THE IOWA CLINIC MEDICAL TEAM

Jonathan Lister’s care involved dozens of medical and support people. Among The Iowa Clinic physicians and surgeons were:

Gregory Hicklin, M.D., Pulmonologist/Critical Care Specialist – admitted Lister to Iowa Lutheran Hospital shortly after midnight, June 8, 2014 and again when he was transferred from St. Luke’s Hospital in Cedar Rapids on August 22, 2014.

A. Nasser Khan, M.D., Cardiologist – performed emergency angioplasty to open a blocked coronary artery around 2 a.m., June 8, 2014.

Brian Rundall, D.O., Cardiothoracic Surgeon – performed bypass surgery at Iowa Methodist Medical Center on July 8, 2014.

Pamela Nerheim, M.D., Cardiologist – provides ongoing medical care to Lister for chronic heart failure.

The Iowa Clinic Cardiovascular Department: 515-875-9090

The Iowa Clinic Pulmonary Department: 515-875-9550

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