According to Kim Feingold, PhD, director of Cardiac Behavioral Medicine at Northwestern’s Bluhm Institute, two out of five cardiac patients are clinically depressed. This makes them less likely to comply with recommended care and puts them at significant risk for complications, even death. Most cardiac programs only focus on the physical aspects of recovery following heart surgery. But an emotional comeback is just as important.
SMART Heart incorporates games, movies, books and other entertainment activities into patients’ hospital stays following heart surgery. The goal is to spark relaxation, laughter and enjoyment for these patients as a way to help fend-off the onset of psychological illnesses like depression, anxiety and stress, which are quite common among heart surgery patients compared to patients who have had other types of surgeries.
Every Monday night, Brown spends hours on a cardiac inpatient floor at Northwestern Memorial. First, he prepares his “SMART Heart cart” filled with books, DVDS, games and music. Then, he makes rounds to patient rooms, sometimes visiting 30 or more as he distributes the entertaining goodies. Brown often sits a while with patients, watching movies. And, you can always find him sharing a personal story of heart disease—something he says he is fortunate to do from the perspective of having “won his battle”.
“If talking to patients and sharing my journey eases their minds about having a transplant or bouncing back after heart surgery, then I have done my job,” said Brown.
Read Allus Brown’s full story and learn more about the SMART Heart program.