THE STRENGTH IT TAKES
Sheriff Richard Dixon has been serving and protecting his community with the Orange County Sheriff’s Office for 17 years, first as Chief Deputy and as Sheriff for the past four and a half years. He’s an avid motorcycle rider and once flew planes as well. “When you’re out there driving or flying, you’re free from burdens and truly enjoying life,” says Richard.
“A TICKING TIME BOMB.”
At 62, he’s coping with being on the receiving end of hereditary heart disease. His father had heart disease and passed in his sixties. His father’s siblings also died of heart disease. “With my family history, I was a ticking time bomb,” surmises Richard.
On December 11, 2010, he was on his way to a community function when a bout of nausea and chest pain washed over him. “We were in the car and actually driving past [IU Health] Paoli Hospital, so I told my wife we better just go there instead…to be safe.”
THE LEVEL ONE HEART TEAM SNAPS INTO ACTION
The Level One Heart Team at IU Health Paoli Hospital was at the ready. “When we arrived the staff basically swarmed me…in a good way!” says Richard. “In a very short amount of time, I was on my way to Bloomington.”
Thanks to their specialized emergency heart care training, the Level One Heart Team at IU Health Paoli Hospital’s Emergency Department immediately identified Richard as having a heart attack and set the regional Level One Heart Team into action.
The IU Health Level One Heart Program is a collaboration among IU Health Paoli, IU Health Bedford and IU Health Bloomington hospitals and regional emergency management systems. It ensures that south central Indiana communities receive highly-coordinated, quality emergency heart care and rapid transportation to a 24/7 cardiac catheterization lab and/or cardiac surgeons who are able to quickly restore blood flow to the heart. Learn more about the Level One Heart Program and how it serves south central Indiana in the accompanying story.
A DIFFERENT VIEW OF FLASHING LIGHTS AND SIRENS
Sheriff Dixon is no stranger to flashing lights and sirens, but this time they were for him. When a heart attack strikes, time is of the essence. The quickest route to quality care is always chosen for Level One Heart patients, whether by air or ground. In this case, an ambulance whisked the Orange County Sheriff away to IU Health Bloomington Hospital for immediate treatment where Emergency Department and Catheterization Lab staff and physicians were prepared and awaiting his arrival. As in Paoli, the Bloomington members of the Level One Heart Team were ready to serve and protect the Sheriff’s heart.
In Bloomington, Richard underwent catheterization, angioplasty and received a stent that restored blood flow to his heart. During his heart attack, blockage and narrowing of the arteries had restricted blood flow to his heart. “I know the heart attack was probably harder on my wife, Debbie, than it was on me,” shares Richard. “I appreciated having the whole heart team there to support her while they cared for me.”
PROFESSIONAL REHABILITATION AND RECOVERY CLOSE TO HOME
During his brief stay at IU Health Bloomington Hospital, Richard began his recovery under the supervision of the Cardiac Rehabilitation Program staff. He started to learn how he’d recover from his heart attack and how to look at life and the choices he makes.
The Cardiac Rehabilitation Program is a professionally supervised program proven to help people recover from heart attacks, open heart surgery and procedures like Richard’s. Proper rehabilitation and education following a heart attack is important in helping prevent further complications and decrease future heart issues. IU Health offers cardiac rehabilitation in Bloomington, Bedford, Nashville, Paoli and Spencer. Richard continued his cardiac rehabilitation close to home at IU Health Paoli.
“I highly recommend cardiac rehabilitation…it gives you confidence,” shares Richard. “After my heart attack I was a bit shy about exercising again. The rehabilitation program gave me the confidence to go back to my normal routine… except for my diet, of course.”
In addition to closely monitoring patients’ exercise and recovery, the cardiac rehabilitation program provides important education and counseling about stress, blood pressure, diet, weight loss, medications and more.
“The rehabilitation staff in Paoli is amazing. Bobbi [Sims, RN, BSN] and Leslie [Belden, CES] are friendly, caring, congenial…and they really know their stuff. They knew just how fragile I thought I was, but were always prodding me to do better, asking me if I could step up my exercise a little bit.”
A NEW PERSPECTIVE ON LIFE AND HIS HEART
With help, Richard has made heart-healthy changes to his life and his diet, hoping to better his odds in defeating heart disease. “I’m a lot more aware of my diet now. I look for low fat, low sodium and low cholesterol options instead of what I used to eat. IU Health dietitians were highly knowledgeable and shared super educational literature with me to help guide my change in eating habits.
“My heredity and genes made me a train wreck when it comes to my heart,” muses Richard. “I share everything I’ve learned with my daughter. I want to help her avoid these kinds of problems.”
“I feel better than I have in quite some time,” confides Richard. “Everyone in the IU Health system and the heart team treated me very well and I can’t recommend cardiac rehab enough. We’re lucky to have such a great hospital and staff right here serving our community.”