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Celebrate Excellent Care

Can Art Play a Part in Healing Your Heart?

Dinah Reath had a heart attack after teaching the first of her two aquatic exercise classes at the Sussex Family YMCA, where she has taught water exercise for many years. Always active and fit, Dinah said, “I never, ever thought I would have a heart attack, having been told my only risk was my age. Everyone who knows me was very surprised that I had a heart attack, but a heart attack it was, and a scary one.

“Fortunately my partner of 25 years, Sally Packard, was in the pool with me and I told her, ‘Something is seriously wrong.’ At the urging of a class participant, a retired nurse, soaking wet, we asked the lifeguard for help. CJ Currence, senior lifeguard, took us into the office where I told him, ‘CJ, I don’t feel well. I have a pain in my chest and down my arms, a pain in my back, and I feel very nauseous.’ Katie Goodwin, who was in charge of the front desk, immediately called 911. An ambulance arrived in minutes. The EMT in the ambulance was the first person to tell me, ‘Mrs. Reath, you’re having a heart attack.’ The other EMT in the back of the ambulance turned to the driver and said, ‘Put on the siren and go.’”

We’ve all seen the movie scenes where a man gasps, clutches his chest and falls to the ground. In reality, the scene may not be that dramatic when a woman is the victim of a heart attack. Both men and women can experience pressure that feels like an elephant sitting across the chest, but women can experience a heart attack without chest pressure. Instead, women may experience shortness of breath, pressure or pain in the lower chest or upper abdomen, dizziness, lightheadedness or fainting, upper back pressure or extreme fatigue. Even when the signs are subtle, the consequences can be deadly, especially if the victim doesn’t get help right away.

Dinah recalls, “When we arrived at Beebe, I remember there were people standing at either side of the doors of the Emergency Department. This is where I first met Denise Pecora, cardiac nurse practitioner. Denise could see the fear in my eyes and she said to me, ‘Dinah, there are going to be a lot of people with you right now; don’t be concerned, we’re all here to take care of you.’”

Sally had followed Dinah’s ambulance to the hospital and shared her perspective. “Throughout my social work career, I have worked in healthcare. I am often the person sitting with loved ones providing comfort. Everyone at Beebe was nice to me, but it was still a terrifying and lonely experience being on the other side. I had to go into my professional operating mode. It was my safe mode. I also realized very quickly that this was serious and everyone was working as a coordinated team to help Dinah. Yes I was afraid, but I also knew she was in good hands.

“Everyone is so focused on providing care for the patient that sometimes they don’t spend a lot of time explaining what is happening to the family members in the waiting room. While I was in the waiting room, I called our four children to let them know that their mother had a heart attack. I didn’t know any details. Dinah’s sons were immediately on their way; Tim drove from Annapolis and Roo hopped a plane from Boston.” Tim and Sally were right at Dinah’s side after the procedure.

Sally added, “When someone is having a heart attack, there’s no time for explanations or choices or decisions, and I can’t say enough about our experience at Beebe. Everyone was kind, professional, and so focused on Dinah and what her needs were. When they told me they were taking Dinah up to the ICU, I was scared again, but then I realized that this was the best place for her now.”

Dinah is able to joke about some things a little bit now. “That evening, in the ICU, three of our children and three of our seven grandchildren came up to see me and hug me and make sure that I was OK. It was immediately apparent that Beebe’s ICU was an amazing place, and everyone we came in contact with was competent, caring and compassionate.”

Dinah reflected on her experience: “Thank goodness I was at the YMCA when I had my heart attack and they responded so professionally, and that I arrived at Beebe quickly. If I had been at home I might have ignored the symptoms.

“I met Dr. Ajith Kumar in the emergency room seconds before he performed my procedure in the cardiac cath lab. I cannot say enough about him. Dr. Kumar is board certified in cardiology, internal medicine and interventional cardiology. He visited every day, and took the time to talk with Sally and my sons, helping to allay their fears. Dr. Kumar explained patiently and clearly what had happened, what was done and how this would affect me moving forward. On the day of my discharge, Dr. Kumar explained what we needed to know to safely move from the ICU to home. Dr. Kumar’s calm and clear instructions made us feel safe and well taken care of.

“The entire team in the ICU was incredible. They made me feel as though I was their only patient. Everybody who came into my room was just unbelievable. Dawn Snyder was my nurse on the last day, and her attention to detail was amazing. Her clear instructions on my medications made the transition to home much easier for all of us.”

Dinah Reath and Sally Packard are celebrating everyone at Beebe who has been a part of Dinah’s care: the team in the Emergency Department, Nurse Practitioner Denise Pecora, Dr. Ajith Kumar, RN Dawn Snyder and the ICU Nursing Team.

“I am deeply grateful to each member of my team for taking such good care of me and my family,” said Dinah. “As a way to express our gratitude to Beebe, we are working with a good friend and photographer, Brook Hedge, and have selected and framed artwork that will be installed in the ICU waiting room.”

For 15 years, Dinah and Sally were the owners of The Packard Reath Gallery, a fine art photography gallery in Lewes. They believe that the presence of art enhances the healing process, bringing peace, harmony and inspiration to what can be a frightening time. The art they have chosen for the ICU waiting room reflects the very heart of Lewes with its historical roots, community and family, and ties to nature and the sea.

As a community-based, not-for-profit healthcare system, Beebe Healthcare depends on the generous support of individuals, corporations, businesses, and private foundations. All gifts to Beebe Healthcare, large or small, are tax-deductible and are channeled through Beebe Medical Foundation. Please consider making a gift today and sharing your story with our community. To make your proud personal donation or to learn more about Celebrate Excellent Care, go to, call the Beebe Medical Foundation at 302-644-2900 or email [email protected].

Photo Caption: Celebrating Excellent Care with a transformational gift of art in Beebe’s ICU Family Waiting Room are (l-r) Registered Nurse Dawn Snyder, Dinah Reath, Dr. Ajith Kumar, Sally Packard and Brook Hedge