By Jason KUROSU
Glendale Memorial Hospital’s Cardiac Fitness Center, as part of National Heart Month, celebrated its patients with the 16th Annual Kings and Queens of Hearts event. Those patients demonstrating the most commitment towards improving their heart health were honored by the hospital staff.
“These patients have been very diligent about getting healthy,” said Michelle Galanti, manager of Cardiac Fitness & Non-Invasive Cardiology. “They have also been great mentors to other patients. There are some who come in and need to hear about exercising and healthy eating from people other than the staff. They think ‘I had a heart attack. You don’t understand what that’s like.’ But hearing about the benefits of the fitness center and of being dedicated to being heart healthy from others who have gone through the same ordeals makes a huge difference.”
The Cardiac Fitness Center, which resides on the second floor of Glendale Memorial Hospital, was transformed for the event into an information center on the heart and how best to keep it healthy. Free screenings and tests were provided, including carotid artery and peripheral vascular screenings, blood pressure checks and body fat analysis. Student nurses from Glendale Community College helped administer the tests and screenings. Dieticians were on hand for information on healthy eating while chefs from Glendale Community College’s Culinary Department provided healthy samplers.
The main events of the day, however, were the annual “State of the Heart” address by medical director of the Cardiac Fitness Center, Dr. Lawrence O’Connor and the crowning of the Kings and Queens of Hearts. With the State of the Heart address, Dr. O’Connor spoke on the current condition of cardiac health care and the care the hospital will provide for its patients.
He touched on three main points. First, a positive note that overall, heart attack patients are receiving much better care within a small window of time after arriving to the hospital. Percutaneous Coronory Interventions (or PCI’s) are being administered to newly arrived patients within 90 minutes, lessening damage to the heart muscle and increasing the chances of surviving a heart attack.
To give an indication of just how many strides have been made in this field, O’Connor informed the audience that, “Thirty years ago, 30% of patients coming in with heart attacks had a chance of not surviving. Many of them also had to stay in the hospital for up to three weeks afterwards.”
His next topic was an endorsement of the hospital’s Chest Pain Center, which became the first and only accredited chest pain center in the region last November. Dr. O’Connor emphasized that any chest pain, especially for older patients, must not be ignored, but that chest pain could mean a variety of different things.
“If you come into our Chest Pain Center, we pledge to have an answer for you in 24 hours about whether or not you have a blocked artery.”
Lastly, Dr. O’Connor spoke about new ideas in medicine.
“Every year, people ask me if there is some one supplement that will improve their heart health and I always tell them, ‘No, just keep exercising and eating healthy.’ Well, it turns out, I may have been wrong.”
O’Connor then used shoelaces to illustrate how the telomeres on our chromosomes shorten over time. This happens with regular cell divisions until the chromosomes unravel, as the shoelaces did when Dr. O’Connor cut the aglets (or tips) off the ends.
“Eating lots of fish keeps these telomeres from shortening, and if you can’t do that, take fish oil capsules.”
Then came the crowning of the Kings and Queens of Hearts. Michelle Galanti raved about the patients selected, saying they were “walking representations of what our program can do. I can’t say enough about the benefits they’ve offered back.”
The Kings and Queens were Karl Kinsley, a retired Lutheran pastor living in Glendale, Consuelo Andonegui, a retired singer and dancer, Michael James, a landscape architect, Rita Khatchatourian, a homemaker and volunteer at the Hospital’s Wound Center, and Bill Tharp, a former Marine living in La Crescenta.
Each spoke about their experiences with heart problems and their time in the hospital.
Tharp, who was resuscitated after suffering a heart attack during the evacuation of homes during the Station Fire, implored “Don’t give up,” to his fellow patients and anyone else who may fall under similar circumstances.
The Kings and Queens were crowned, and Galanti and other members of the staff “paid homage” to the new royalty. Galanti and the staff crouched on bended knees and gave a series of emphatic bows to the Kings and Queens, delighting all in attendance.