The Beat Goes On: Vigilant Cardiac Care Extends Senior’s Independence
Carmella Palmisano admits that she has been blessed with health and happiness throughout her long life. She and her late husband raised four children and welcomed seven grandchildren. Now, at 86, Carmella relishes the ability to continue living independently in the house she has called home for 60 years, despite recent health setbacks.
Since 2010, Carmella has had intermittent atrial fibrillation (a rapid irregular heartbeat) and valvular heart disease – conditions diagnosed while she was recovering from diverticulitis surgery at Overlook. She’s also been in and out of two nursing homes and intensive care following complications from hernia surgery. But, despite her health issues, Carmella is currently back home and managing well with help from her daughters and a home care nurse, who visits three times a week.
She credits her independence with the care she receives from Overlook’s home care services, loving family members and her cardiologist, Steven J. Sheris, M.D., FACC, Overlook’s chief of cardiology.
“He’s a wonderful, caring doctor,” says Carmella of Dr. Sheris. “I didn’t have a cardiologist when they discovered I had an irregular heartbeat, but Dr. Sheris introduced himself and gently explained how he would help restore my heart rhythm. Now, I call his office any time I feel my heart racing and become short of breath so that he can address the problem. I’m back to normal thanks to his concern and expertise. He’s my hero!”
“Atrial fibrillation is common among those in their 80s,” explains Dr. Sheris, “and, as the population ages, it is becoming increasingly prevalent. Carmella is a very functional 86-year-old who wants to maintain an active lifestyle and enjoy her children and grandchildren. We can manage her occasional bouts of atrial fibrillation on an as-needed outpatient basis in Overlook’s endoscopy suite.”
While Carmella is sedated, Dr. Sheris first performs a transesophageal echocardiogram to make sure that her heart is free of clots. He then performs cardioversion, during which an electric shock is delivered to the chest via electrodes to restore a normal heart rhythm. The procedure is effective in 90 percent of patients, although some – like Carmella – require repeated interventions. At home, Carmella is vigilant about taking a blood thinner to reduce the risk of stroke as well as a rhythm control agent.
“As modern medicine makes it increasingly possible to extend lives and manage chronic illnesses with fewer hospitalizations, the lines between inpatient and outpatient care are blurring,” comments Dr. Sheris. “At Overlook, we are doing a good job of streamlining care across specialty areas to provide patients with the best, most cost-effective experience and quality of life.”
“I’m so happy I live close to Overlook,” says Carmella. “When I need to go there, the nurses are darling and the facilities are beautiful. But I’m also grateful to be able to get the care I need and still remain in my own home.”