Most people can’t wait to leave the hospital. Deidra and Bow Matthews, however, weren’t quite ready on their discharge day.
Every child is different and every parent is different. Wellstar clinical staff does a beautiful job of meeting them where they are in their own journey and supplying them with the resources they need.
Dr. Avril Beckford
Chief of Pediatrics
Deidra had just delivered Chase, a beautiful girl. Holding that tiny, fragile baby in their arms, both new parents felt nervous about what to do next. But the nursing staff at Wellstar Cobb Hospital surrounded them with unfailing support and helped the Matthews family gain more confidence in holding, feeding and swaddling their new bundle of joy.
“We were scared out of our minds with our first child. We thought we were ready to go home, but when we saw her, she was so little, and we realized we didn't know what we were doing,” Deidra said. “The nursing staff and doctors were just amazing. They were supportive and caring and very instructive as well.”
“People often say, ‘Give us the manual.’ Well, there are guidelines, but there is no manual,” said Dr. Avril Beckford, Chief of Pediatrics at Wellstar. “Our excellent nursing staff educates new parents on the proper techniques for holding, swaddling and feeding the new baby, as well as prevention methods such as safe sleep.”
“Every child is different and every parent is different,” adds Dr. Beckford. “Our clinical staff does a beautiful job of meeting them where they are in their journey and supplying them with the resources they need.”
Twelve wonderful years have since passed. In that time, Chase got a brother, Canon, who was also born at Cobb Hospital. Since then, Wellstar has always been a part of the children’s lives, especially when it comes to bumps and bruises.
“We just feel like Cobb is our family hospital,” said Bow. “We would always go to the hospital or urgent care centers and the emergency room. We wouldn’t trust the healthcare of our family with anyone else but Wellstar.”
Care that Doesn't Skip a Beat
Wellstar was there for Bow in the middle of the night when he drove himself to the emergency room with chest pains. After being promptly diagnosed with cardiomyopathy - and by and large, congestive heart failure - the cardiology team led by Dr. Ravi Edupuganti helped Bow make decisions to save his heart and his life.
“Instead of getting a defibrillator implanted, Dr. Edupuganti gave me my options. I had to drastically improve my health through diet and exercise, which I did. He also referred me to the Congestive Heart Failure Academy which has been a tremendous help. I’m here and healthier because of these resources, Dr. Edupuganti and his team.”
Deidra gained a partner in Wellstar when it came to achieving a healthy weight. Because Wellstar had always been so close to heart, Deidra trusted her care team when she began losing weight at an unhealthy pace.
Following her first bariatric surgery with another healthcare system, she was unable to hold food down and wasn’t getting the nutrients her body needed to function. She underwent successful revision surgery with bariatric surgeon Dr. Fritz Jean-Pierre, and then Deidra found new joy in hobbies that she hadn’t explored in a long time.
“I realized that there are more things to do than going out to lunch or dinner, like going skating or bowling,” Deidra said. “You just feel like you're able to do anything, like you're on top of the world because that one big rock has finally been removed.”
The Matthews family found the care they needed at Wellstar, from the tiny inconveniences, like when Deidra broke her toe, to life-changing moments, such as the birth of two children.
“We go to Wellstar Cobb Hospital because we couldn't imagine anywhere else to go. It's our family hospital,” Deidra said. “They've always been there for the most important moments in our lives. I can't imagine our life without them.”
Johnny “Bow” Matthews was preparing for bed when he felt a tightness in his chest he just couldn’t shake.
He tried to sleep, but chest pains wouldn’t let him drift off. He attempted to wake his wife, Deidra, but she wouldn’t budge.
The mother of two had been up and about all day, from preparing breakfast early in the morning to putting the kids in bed after dinner.
“I told her, ‘Hey, something’s wrong,’ but she was sleeping too deeply and wasn’t comprehending.”
Bow couldn’t afford to wait. As the pain and discomfort worsened, he dressed and drove to the emergency department at Wellstar Cobb Hospital.
The next morning, Deidra called out to Bow and got no answer.
“I saw his name light up on my phone. I picked it up and said, ‘Where are you?’ He told me he was in the emergency room. Then I became scared out of my mind.”
Overnight, Bow was diagnosed with a type of congestive heart failure called cardiomyopathy, where the muscle in the heart can enlarge, thicken or stiffen, leading to heart failure, irregular heartbeats and other complications.
There might be no symptoms in the early stages of cardiomyopathy. As the condition progresses, symptoms begin to manifest, such as shortness of breath, fatigue, rapid and fluttering heartbeats and chest discomfort - all of which Bow was experiencing.
The most influential thing you can do for your health is to improve your lifestyle in terms of diet, exercise and losing weight. Usually, that is more powerful than any medicine that I can give you.
Dr. Ravi Edupuganti
Months after Bow’s diagnosis, Dr. Ravi Edupuganti, a Wellstar cardiologist, checked Bow’s heart function again. It still hadn’t improved enough.
“Only 50% of cardiomyopathy patients live beyond 5 years,” said Dr. Ravi Edupuganti, relaying the grim statistic. “I recommended that Bow get a defibrillator implanted. This would help him live longer.”
“I asked, ‘What other options are there? What can I do with lifestyle changes to where I can avoid more procedures and live a healthier life?’” Bow explained. “Thankfully, Dr. Edupuganti gave me another path to consider.”
“The most influential thing you can do for your health is to improve your lifestyle in terms of diet, exercise and losing weight,” Dr. Edupuganti stressed. “Usually, that is more powerful than any medicine that I can give you.”
Bow reiterated that he and Dr. Edupuganti had an excellent physician-patient relationship, and he really felt heard.
“We had such a great rapport,” Bow emphasized. “He gave me my options, and we talked about how to move forward. Dr. Edupuganti keeps me honest about my new lifestyle changes with diet and exercise. I couldn't imagine going to any other cardiologist. He let me know I was empowered, and it was completely my choice.”
From Failure to Success
I followed all the steps that the Wellstar Heart Failure Academy provided. I changed my lifestyle, improved my diet and exercise, and I'm proud to say I've lost 83 pounds since my diagnosis. With help from Dr. Edupuganti and his team, I get to lead a happier and healthlier life.
At Dr. Edupuganti’s suggestion, Bow chose to attend the Heart Failure Academy at Wellstar, a free, four-week course at Wellstar for patients and their family members. The Academy is aimed at giving patients and their support system the tools to make the lifestyle changes necessary to manage their condition and keep them out of the hospital.
The Academy was everything Bow needed, and then some.
“I followed all the steps that the Heart Failure Academy provided. I changed my lifestyle, improved my diet and exercise, and I’m proud to say I’ve lost 83 pounds since my diagnosis.”
Then when Dr. Edupuganti checked Bow’s heart again months later, its function had improved so much that a defibrillator was no longer necessary.
“I remember how happy I was telling him and the huge smile that lit up his face. All his hard work had paid off,” said Dr. Edupuganti.
After starting his treatment, Bow even noticed an improvement with other health issues – and one of them made Deidra very thankful.
“I had sleep apnea, but after attending the Academy, I lost weight and felt so much better,” said Bow. “I’m no longer affected by sleep apnea and I don’t snore anymore.”
“It’s so rewarding for me as a physician when my patients have these kinds of outcomes. Impacting their health and also empowering them to take charge of their own healthy lifestyle makes what I do truly satisfying,” said Dr. Edupuganti.
To this day, Bow, Deidra and their children reap the benefits of living healthy lives. Bow says he is thankful to the cardiology team at Wellstar for helping him make healthier choices for his overall wellness.
“Wellstar is the health system that gave me a second chance at life. A second chance to hold my wife and children. A second chance to fight,” Bow said. “I thought congestive heart failure was a death sentence, but it doesn’t have to be. With help from Dr. Edupuganti and his team, I get to lead a happier and healthier life.”