Care team's compassion creates positive experience for patient

Months after Janet Waters battled COVID-19, she still felt the aftereffects of the virus on her health. When she felt her heart “pounding out of her chest,” she sought care at Ascension St. Vincent’s St. John County ER.

“I was terrified when they told me I had atrial fibrillation and needed to be admitted to the hospital,” Waters, 74, said. “My aunt passed away unexpectedly when she was 75, so that fear has intensified as I approach that age.”

Dr. Shailee Shah, a Women’s Heart Health and Prevention specialist at Ascension St. Vincent’s St. Johns County, and Leighanne Meade, APRN, evaluated Waters and both cared for her during her eight-day stay. Waters had a low red blood count (anemia) that likely led to her rapid heartbeat. The anemia can cause the heart to pump more blood to make up for the lack of oxygen in the blood.

During her weeklong stay, Waters said the compassion and patience exhibited by the care team and support services set the foundation for her overwhelmingly positive experience.

Waters recounted memorable interactions she had during her time in the hospital: Cardiologist Dr. George Dibu calmed her fears by holding her hand and explaining her heart condition in a way she could understand. Nurse Vicky checked on her even when she was working on a different floor. Chef Leo asked if she enjoyed her food and gave her a tiny silver spoon as a gift. And Mena from Food Service delivered her food tray and prayed with her.

“You can’t teach this kind of compassion; it comes from the heart,” Waters said. “You’re lucky if you find one person here or there during your stay, but I’ve never experienced that level of care and service from everyone I encountered -- even the person who cleaned the floor. People deserve special care when sick and frightened; it just doesn’t happen all the time.”

Once her red blood count stabilized, Waters was released to go home. Waters is feeling back to normal after electrophysiologist Dr. Amr Barakat implanted a stroke-reducing WATCHMAN device at Ascension St. Vincent’s Riverside. 

Waters said she received compassionate care across the board from admission to discharge. “I can't imagine how things would have gone had I been at a different hospital,” she said. “Being in a hospital for eight days is a long time, so it was great to have people going out of their way to make me more comfortable.”