Patient Stories

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Lessons From the Heart
By Healthy Life 2007 Summer

Watching what he eats has never been easy for 61-year-old James Elsaesser of Salem, a professional chef and culinary arts teacher at North Shore Community College. But a routine physical five years ago with his physician Peter Barker, MD, left him no choice. Midway through the exam Dr. Barker asked, "So when did you have your heart attack?" "I had no idea I had anything so serious," Elsaesser recalls. "The only symptom I had was a little indigestion."

Days later, he passed out in the classroom. This time he found himself at NSMC’s Heart Center, where cardiologist John Santos, M.D., inserted a tiny camera into his veins to find out where the problem was in his heart. He was diagnosed with heart failure. His heart, damaged by the heart attack and high blood pressure, wasn’t pumping enough blood and oxygen through his body to meet his needs. More than five million people in the United States suffer from heart failure and more than 550,000 new cases are diagnosed each year. It is one of the most common reasons why people are hospitalized—especially those over 65.

"For me, the hardest part has been losing weight. I have diabetes too, so cutting back on the calories has been tough," says Elsaesser. But with the support of his wife, Linda, along with the wellness team at NSMC, Elsaesser is doing much better. "I exercise a lot more now. I’m doing mostly cardio workouts." Elsaesser went through NSMC's Living Well with Heart Failure program to help minimize his symptoms, learn to exercise, and understand the illness, but also to enlist emotional support. Today, Elsaesser continues to work on losing weight, and staying more physically fit. "Thanks to the great care I received at North Shore Medical Center, I’m doing everything I can to live as long as possible."
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