Cardiac Patient Was Far from Home, but Not from Outstanding Care
Ask Andre Guindon about his heart attack and he doesn’t have much to say – at first.
Nudge him a little and he’ll open up about the experience:
How he was rushed to Methodist Hospital in Omaha, over 1,000 miles from home.
How it happened hours before returning home to Canada. “I probably wouldn’t have been here today if it happened on the plane,” he said.
And how his medical team, which included a uniquely qualified nurse, went above and beyond in the early days of his recovery.
Active, but still at risk for a heart attack
Andre’s family has a history of heart disease, but he never expected to have a heart attack.
The retired photographer for Parks Canada, the country’s national parks system, rode his bike 22 miles to work and back every day for 30 years. He’d routinely run six miles over his lunch break. Even in retirement he would ride his bike for two to three hours at a time before he had a knee replacement in 2017.
His three adult sons are active as well, with biking, skiing, canoeing, rock climbing and tae kwon do.
“Physical activity is a big thing in our family,” said Andre, 67, who lives in the Ottawa suburb of Nepean. “So it was quite a shock for me to suffer a heart attack.”
And it seemingly couldn’t have come at a worse time.
Andre and his wife, Andrea, were in Omaha visiting her uncle for his 90th birthday. A few hours before their return flight to Ottawa, he suffered an ST-elevation myocardial infarction (STEMI), the most serious type of heart attack.
Andre was rushed to Methodist Hospital, where he received two stents. He wasn’t going home anytime soon, but he was about to discover that someone was watching out for him.
Nursing around the world
Katie Leggio, MSN, RN, CMSRN, crossed the globe on her way to Methodist Hospital’s cardiac unit.
After finishing school in Canada – her hometown of Richmond, Ontario, is about 10 miles from Nepean – Katie worked as a nurse in Ottawa before serving as a nurse and instructor at a hospital in Saudi Arabia. That’s where she met her husband, who is from the Omaha area. The couple moved to Omaha, where Katie completed her master’s degree in nursing and was an adjunct faculty member at Nebraska Methodist College.
Her background and experiences taught her lessons she’d lean on in caring for Andre.
“As a nurse I've worked all over the world, and nursing is nursing no matter where you are,” she said. “You provide the same care. You just have to explain the differences in the systems to the patients and the providers in order for them to be able to have the care that they need.”
Nurse goes "the extra mile"
“The minute he arrived by ambulance the excellent care began,” Andrea wrote in a letter to Methodist Health System after Andre’s stay.
After receiving the life-saving stents in the catheterization lab, Andre was taken to the cardiac unit. The team caring for him soon faced some unique challenges.
Blood test results could be difficult to understand for Andre, who is accustomed to a different measurement system. Katie was quick to convert the data for him to aid in his recovery and education.
And while it’s normal for nurses to schedule patients’ follow-up appointments and cardiac rehab, those calls usually are local.
“I knew that the Ottawa Heart Institute was a great resource for them living in Ottawa. So I got the referral sent over for him to do cardiac rehab over there,” said Katie, who also contacted Andre’s family doctor.
Her dedication didn’t go unnoticed. In addition to their letter, the Guindons wrote Katie a card thanking her for being “a godsend in this small world of ours.”
Katie “went the extra mile to help us navigate both health care systems,” Andrea wrote in the letter.
“She did all the legwork and everything for us,” Andre said. “It was just amazing.”
New RN learns from the best
At the time Andre was admitted to the cardiac unit, Katie was a preceptor for Pete Ray, BSN, RN, a recent graduate of Nebraska Methodist College. Pete was about a month into his 12-week training, and he hadn’t yet cared for a patient with a STEMI.
He was in good hands with Katie, and he considers his time training with her to be invaluable.
“A lot of what you don't learn in school, like how to talk to doctors, who to contact for what, she's very good to be able to lean on for questions like that,” Pete said a few days before starting to care for patients on his own. “I've already had several nurses comment saying, ‘Oh, you're ready. You're ready now.’ So I think that that's a tip of the cap to her for doing very well at showing me the ropes."
Pete will be a great asset for the cardiac unit, Katie said.
“I've been around a lot of students,” she said. “And the nice thing about Pete is he's very motivated to do the right thing and to know how to get there. Not just, 'What's the right answer?' but he wants to know why."
Together, their care was unforgettable.
“Those two were outstanding,” Andre said. “They just blew me away by their service.”
"I made the difference"
Back home in Canada, Andre is on the mend. He’s been following up with his doctors with good results. And he’s back on his bike, riding for up to 45 minutes while being careful not to overexert himself. “I’m not 27 anymore,” he said.
Katie and Pete say Andre’s positive attitude put him on the path to a better long-term outcome. Andre says it’s just what needs to be done.
“I just turn the page and move on. That’s the only way to do it,” he said. “I think it was a wake-up call to my sons, too.”
Meanwhile, Katie and Pete are all smiles when they think about the Guindons’ letter.
“It really re-energizes you,” Katie said. “It reaffirms that you're doing what you should be doing, right? Like this is the career for you when you get those days and you're like, ‘I made the difference.’"
Read the letter Andrea Guindon wrote to Methodist Hospital detailing Andre's experience and thanking staff members.