Avera Medical Minute AHH: Heart Failure Clinic provides team approach for treating patients

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Kyle Kirby is one of the millions of Americans living with heart failure – a condition that causes the muscle in the heart wall to slowly weaken and enlarge, preventing the heart from pumping enough blood.

“I was doing some tile work and went to walk up the basement steps and I couldn’t get up the steps. I couldn’t breathe. I had no breath left,” said Kirby.

Kirby started to lose hope but then he learned about the Heart Failure Clinic at North Central Heart – a Division of Avera Heart Hospital. A whole team was ready to help Kirby get his health back on track.

“We were able to institute our new program of outpatient IV diuretics where it allow us with IVs to give fluid medicines to pull the fluid off,” said Susan Eichacker, Registered Nurse.

“They gave me the intravenous IV and then five hours, I had eliminated 4.5 liters of fluid out of my system. I felt like a new person,” said Kirby.

Eichacker’s role in the clinic is to educate patients.

“Failure alone is a huge word and when it’s attached to heart failure as a diagnosis, that can seemingly be very scary and overwhelming. So our purpose, our goal, is to give the people the resources they need, give them the information they need with simple changes in their normal lifestyle,” said Eichacker.

“And we can help to deal with symptoms,” said cardiologist Dr. Ewa Konik.

Dr. Konik is the Heart Failure Clinic’s cardiologist. She says there are a number of causes for heart failure.

“High blood pressure is the most common cause of the general population level. So it’s important to treat high blood pressure, reduce the salt intake, exercise, keep healthy weight-- but there are many causes. There’s chemical disease, there’s heart attacks, blood pressure and something you are born with,” said Dr. Konik.

“When we diagnose heart failure patients, typically the most beneficial thing we can do for them is medications,” said pharmacist Tom Babb.

Babb provides guideline-directed medication management for Heart Failure Clinic patients.

“The first thing I will do is I’ll go over their medications, make sure that they have an accurate medication list -- I’ll make sure that they don’t have any drug-drug interactions that we’re worried about, any side effects that the medications could be causing and I’ll also make sure that they’re taking their medications,” said Babb.

“It’s extremely important. There are medications that we should not use in patients with heart failure – to have those eyes that look for medications that we should not use and suggest maybe other medications you can use,” said Dr. Konik.

Kirby credits the Heart Failure Clinic team for helping him to live his best life.

“You could tell that they all just really care for you. They had your heart, your life, in their hearts,” said Kirby.

Heart failure can get worse if it’s not treated. Signs of heart failure include shortness of breath, weight gain from fluid buildup, coughing or wheezing and swelling in feet, ankles and legs.

For more information, just call 877-AT-AVERA.