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St. Joe is state’s first Shared Care facility for heart implant patients

Janet Lenz Presence Saint Joseph Hospital Heart Failure Clinic Elgis pictured   posed portrait clinic recently recognized as first

Janet Lenz of the Presence Saint Joseph Hospital Heart Failure Clinic in Elgin is pictured in a posed portrait at the clinic, recently recognized as the first Shared Care site in Illinois. | Submitted.

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Updated: October 24, 2013 6:02AM

ELGIN — The whole idea of a heart implant is to give heart failure patients back a “better quality of life,” according to Janet Lenz, a board-certified adult nurse practitioner, critical-care registered nurse and registered cardiovascular invasive specialist.

And, Lenz said, “Part of that is allowing them as much time away from the burden of their disease as possible.”

But that is difficult to offer in Elgin when the only centers able to care for those patients are the centers that implant those devices, the nearest in Chicago and Naperville, she said. That can make it a day-long ordeal for some very sick patients to receive care, she said.

That’s why Presence Saint Joseph Hospital’s Heart Failure Clinic became a Shared Care site in May, the first and only certified Shared Care site in Illinois.

As a member of the nationwide Shared Care Program Network, Lenz will work with specialists at the six Chicago-area heart implant centers to provide ongoing wellness care for area heart failure patients living with a HeartMate II Left Ventricular Assist Device at the Heart Failure Clinic, 77 N. Airlite St.

Heart failure is a condition in which the heart is not able to pump enough blood to meet the body’s needs, according to Presence. The HeartMate II is a small heart pump implanted alongside a patient’s own heart that is designed to assist the heart’s pumping function to restore the flow of oxygenated blood throughout the body.

More than 15,000 patients have been implanted with HeartMate II through trial enrollment and commercial use worldwide, according to Presence.

Because of laws that protect patient privacy, Lenz said she is unsure how many of those patients live in the Elgin area, but she has gotten interest in the Shared Care site at Presence from as far away as the Quad Cities, on the Illinois-Iowa border.

The nearest heart implant centers to which patients otherwise would have to travel include Northwestern University Hospital, University of Chicago Hospital and Rush University Hospital in Chicago; Loyola University Medical Center in Maywood; Advocate Christ Hospital in Oak Lawn; and Edward Hospital in Naperville.

The adult nurse practitioner has at least one patient with the implant who lives in Elgin, she said. He has had to return for care to the University of Chicago, where it was implanted, a trip that is both “exhausting and expensive,” she said. And he “implored” her to open a site in Elgin, she said.

She joined Presence in June 2011 to plan and develop the Heart Failure Center and its services, which opened in 2012, according to the hospital. To obtain Shared Care certification, the Heart Failure Center team had to meet strict standards and complete a rigorous training program, it said.

Lenz also sees patients at all levels of heart failure at Presence, she said.

“For many people, heart failure is a lifelong struggle. But by learning how heart failure affects your body, what medications to take, which foods to eat and what symptoms to report, we can reduce future problems,” she said.

“The Heart Failure Center is used to educate patients about their condition and help them manage their symptoms to live a longer, more comfortable life.”

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