As Mother’s Day approaches, it’s a time to celebrate the journey of motherhood in all its forms. At Arkansas Heart Hospital, we are privileged to share the inspiring story of Loren, a remarkable woman whose path to motherhood was paved by the transformative power of bariatric surgery.

In June 2021, Loren underwent bariatric surgery under the skilled hands of Dr. Samuel Bledsoe. At 300 pounds, she faced a myriad of health issues, including weight-related PCOS, which made the dream of starting a family seem like an impossible feat. But Loren was determined to change her life, not just for herself, but for the family she and her husband hoped to build one day.

With the primary goal of being able to conceive, Loren embarked on her journey towards better health. Two years post-op, she and her partner began trying to conceive but faced challenges. Undeterred, they sought fertility treatments, uncovering a surprising diagnosis of female factor infertility—an ovulation issue that may have gone unnoticed without the weight loss and metabolic improvements from the surgery.

Loren’s decision to undergo bariatric surgery not only helped her shed 115 pounds but also resolved her metabolic issues, allowing her to wean off medications and pursue fertility treatments with renewed hope. Despite setbacks and challenges, including four medication cycles and three artificial insemination cycles, Loren’s perseverance paid off in the most beautiful way imaginable.

Today, Loren and her husband are proud parents of twin boys, Liam and Levi. Born on November 13, just four hours before Loren’s 30th birthday, these precious boys are a symbol of love and a testament to the strength and resilience of their mother.

As we celebrate Mother’s Day, Loren’s story serves as a reminder of the miracles that can unfold when determination meets medical expertise. Her journey from bariatric surgery to motherhood is a beacon of hope for anyone facing similar challenges, showing that with courage, perseverance and the right support, dreams can indeed come true.

At Arkansas Heart Hospital, we are honored to be part of Loren’s journey and countless others like hers, guiding them toward healthier, happier lives. This Mother’s Day, we celebrate Loren, her beautiful family and the countless mothers whose stories inspire us every day.

Meet Kelvin. His journey from a professional baseball player to medical assistant in Arkansas Heart’s Intensive Cardiac Rehab program is nothing short of inspiring.

After playing baseball throughout his childhood in the Dominican Republic, he came to the U.S. in 2017 to play on college teams in Texas and as a Mustang at Conway’s Central Baptist College. He then moved to Puerto Rico’s professional team, Tainos.

Wanting to use his 24 years of athletic experience and exercise physiology education to help others, he stepped out of the baseball diamond and into our Strong Hearts Cardiac Rehab team in October 2023 as a medical assistant.

“My baseball skills and determination play an important role in my life in general and in cardiac rehab because the game is more than about baseball,” he says. “There is a lot of dedication and respect for others. I like to be a team player and I use that in my job, too.”

The most rewarding aspect of his career is watching cardiac and bariatric surgery patients reach their health and weight loss goals.

“I like to give encouragement and motivate patients to do their exercises and answer their questions or concerns,” he says. “Seeing them reach their goals and feel much better fills me with satisfaction.”

Our exceptional team members are more than just experts in cardiac care—they are individuals with vibrant lives and passions that extend far beyond the walls of Arkansas Heart. Join us in celebrating and recognizing their dedication to our patients and their personal passions. After all, it’s not just about the hearts we care for; it’s the hearts of those who care

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Charlie, RN, is not the type to shy away from danger. In fact, you will find him running to some of the most desperate situations: fires and medical emergencies. With years of experience as both a firefighter and an EMT, Charlie’s instinct to save lives led him to nursing in a hospital setting.

He first arrived at Arkansas Heart as a nursing student to complete his clinicals. After graduation, he enrolled in the Arkansas Heart Hospital New Grad Nurse Program and then joined the nursing team in the Progressive Critical Care Unit (PCCU).

“I like the patients, my workers and management team,” he said. “My mission is to develop my knowledge and skills in a critical care setting and apply that experience in my day-to-day.”

Charlie’s devotion to his career, he also applies to his other passion: photography. Initially, he dipped his toe into photography to document his hikes and travels, activities that nourish his soul.

“My journey in photography started as my own personal diary, a way to disconnect and connect at the same time,” he said. “Working in healthcare led me to seek nature harder than ever before.”

He started small – just his phone. Eventually, he learned the ins and outs of a professional, mirror-less camera.

“I saw some neat things when I was out on the trails, and I started just taking pictures with my phone,” he said. “My first pictures were pretty bad, but I eventually figured out what worked and what didn’t and started getting compliments.”

You can find Charlie regularly on a remote hiking trail or even across the country capturing nature and wildlife in some of his favorite spots like Big Sur and Glacier National Park.

While he loves grand landscape shots, he expanded his skills to capture the details of everyday life.

“I like to showcase some of the smaller mundane things and turn them into something really beautiful.”

See Charlie’s work.

Our exceptional team members are more than just experts in cardiac care—they are individuals with vibrant lives and passions that extend far beyond the walls of Arkansas Heart. Join us in celebrating and recognizing their dedication to our patients and their personal passions. After all, it’s not just about the hearts we care for; it’s the hearts of those who care.

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Meet Angela. She began as an administrative assistant at Arkansas Heart in 2019 and soon moved to Progressive Cardiac Care Unit (PCCU) staffing coordinator, where she supports nurses and staff to enhance efficiency and patient care.

It was in this role that Angela connected with Kayla, who at the time was a patient care partner at Arkansas Heart. Kayla had been a nurse in Venezuela before moving to Arkansas. She dreamed of returning to a nursing career but struggled to navigate the complexities of gaining her licensure as an internationally trained nurse. Angela stepped in to help Kayla obtain and translate the necessary documents and guide her through the application process. Today, Angela is extending that passion and expertise to assist even more internationally trained nurses across Central Arkansas return to their calling.

“It’s been incredibly rewarding to see the positive response from the Hispanic community,” she said. “They appreciate our efforts to reach out and acknowledge their potential in healthcare.”

Angela has another passion: baking. Her skills and creativity in the kitchen, which she developed as a young girl at her family’s cake decorating school in Peru, inspired her to open A&M Cake Designs LLC and even earned her a feature on Food Network.

“My clients are at the heart of my business, and it’s a joy to create amazing memories for them through my cakes,” she said.

Our exceptional team members are more than just experts in cardiac care—they are individuals with vibrant lives and passions that extend far beyond the walls of Arkansas Heart. Join us in celebrating and recognizing their dedication to our patients and their personal passions. After all, it’s not just about the hearts we care for; it’s the hearts of those who care.

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Knowing the difference between allergies, influenza and COVID-19 can feel like navigating a maze when they all target the respiratory system. However, they do have distinctive causes, symptoms and treatments, which are crucial to know for effective treatment. Dr. Peyton Card, an internal medicine physician, covers the differences below.

Allergies

Allergies occur when the immune system overreacts to a harmless substance, such as pollen, dust mites, pet dander, or certain foods. This reaction triggers the release of histamines and other chemicals, leading to symptoms.

Common allergy symptoms include sneezing, runny or stuffy nose, itching of the eyes, nose, or throat, watery eyes, and sometimes coughing or wheezing. These symptoms are typically not accompanied by fever. They are usually not life-threatening, although they can significantly affect quality of life and productivity.

Treatment for allergies often involves avoiding triggers when possible and using medications such as antihistamines, decongestants, nasal corticosteroids, or allergy shots (immunotherapy) to alleviate symptoms.

Influenza

Influenza is caused by the influenza virus, which has different strains (such as influenza A and B). It is highly contagious and spreads through respiratory droplets.

Symptoms of the flu can include fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, muscle aches, fatigue, headache, and sometimes vomiting or diarrhea. It can range from mild to severe, and in some cases, it can lead to serious complications in high-risk individuals such as young children, the elderly and those with underlying health conditions.

Treatment for the flu may include antiviral medications if started early, supportive care (rest, fluids, over-the-counter pain relievers), and in severe cases, hospitalization.

Should you get a flu shot?

COVID-19

COVID-19 is caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus, which is a novel coronavirus that emerged in late 2019. Like the flu, it spreads primarily through respiratory droplets.

Symptoms of COVID-19 can vary but commonly include fever or chills, cough, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, fatigue, muscle or body aches, headache, new loss of taste or smell, sore throat, congestion or runny nose, nausea or vomiting and diarrhea.

COVID-19 can also range from mild to severe. While many people experience mild symptoms, others may develop severe respiratory illness, pneumonia, or acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS), especially those with underlying health conditions or older adults.

Treatment for COVID-19 varies depending on the severity of symptoms but may include supportive care, such as rest, fluids, and over-the-counter medications for fever and pain. In severe cases, hospitalized patients may require oxygen therapy, mechanical ventilation, or other supportive measures.

COVID has long-term effects on heart.

If you’re unsure about the cause of your symptoms, it’s always best to consult with a healthcare professional for an accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment plan.

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For years, Carol denied that she was having heart problems. Chest pain had her taking Aspirin and nitrate pills regularly, but she didn’t act until she had to call an ambulance.

“Eventually it gets to you, and you have to accept that you have a problem,” Carol said.

And she did have a problem: coronary artery disease (CAD).

Living with CAD, Carol was no stranger to cardiovascular emergencies. After suffering her third heart attack and receiving unsatisfactory care at a healthcare institution, she was rushed to Arkansas Heart Hospital (AHH). There she underwent a cath procedure, which revealed a severe blockage. Dr. Ian Cawich, a coronary and peripheral vascular interventionalist, performed an emergency stent.

“I’ve stuck with the Arkansas Heart Hospital ever since,” Carol said. “The care I received was first-class. The nurses there are a class unto themselves! The doctors always took the time to explain everything very well. And Chaplain Shelby is the sweetest man I’ve ever met.”

Over the years, Carol has lived through nine heart attacks and underwent a triple bypass and many stents at AHH. While it has tested her resolve, she has found exemplary care and support from the AHH team and interventional cardiologist, Dr. Daniel Sherbet.

“Dr. Sherbet has always taken his time with me and is kind,” she said. “I always trust him. There’s that strong trust there.”

Though Carol must take constant measures to manage CAD, she has lived an active life. Fishing, kayaking and reading are her favorite hobbies.

Carol has an important piece of advice: listen to your body.

“Whether you ignore it or not, it’s going to continue to tell you until you call an ambulance or drop dead,” she said. “So many people just ignore it, but I’ve gotten used to it and I know what will happen if I don’t pay attention to my body. If it tells me to call Dr. Sherbet’s office, then I’m calling Dr. Sherbet’s office.”

What is her second piece of advice? Choose AHH.

“If I have to call somebody in Little Rock, it’s going to be Arkansas Heart,” she said. “If I have to see someone in an emergency, it’s going to be Arkansas Heart. I’ve never had a bad experience there.”

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Don’t let heart disease sneak up on you. Our cardiac experts are here to care for your heart and help you take the steps to prevent cardiovascular disease, heart attacks, peripheral vascular disease and more. View our services and find a clinic near you.

What are the risk factors for cardiovascular disease?

Cardiac catheterization, also known as a heart cath, is a valuable tool in the diagnosis and treatment of various cardiovascular conditions. It provides detailed information about the structure and function of the heart and allows for minimally invasive interventions to address specific cardiac issues.

Dr. Patrick Flaherty, interventional cardiologist, explains what happens during a heart cath procedure.

“A heart cath is how we make a roadmap of what is going on with somebody’s coronary artery tree,” he said. “We find an artery that has an open pathway to the heart, and we insert an intra-arterial line that will allow us to run a plastic tube known as a catheter either up the arm or through the femoral groin arteries that will be directed under x-ray to the coronary arteries.”

Once the catheter is in place, dye (contrast) is delivered through the catheter, and x-ray images are taken to visualize the blood flow.

“The contrast will replace blood flow for a very short period, typically a couple of seconds, and allows us to see if the flow is wide open or if there is a sudden obstruction to that flow where there is a blockage,” Dr. Flaherty said.

How Long Does a Heart Cath Take?

The duration of the procedure can vary but generally takes around 30 minutes to two hours, depending on the complexity of the case and whether any interventions are performed.

Who Needs a Heart Cath?

A cardiac catheterization procedure may be recommended for individuals who are experiencing symptoms or have risk factors for various heart conditions. Some common indications for cardiac catheterization include:

  • Chest pain (angina)
  • Heart attack
  • Abnormal stress test or imaging results
  • Heart valve disease
  • Congenital heart defects
  • Heart failure

It’s important to note that the decision to undergo cardiac catheterization is made based on individual patient factors, including symptoms, medical history, and results of other diagnostic tests. The procedure is typically recommended when the potential benefits outweigh the risks for the individual patient.

What are the Risks of a Heart Cath?

Like any medical procedure, cardiac catheterization carries some risks, including bleeding, infection, allergic reaction to the contrast dye, damage to blood vessels, and complications related to anesthesia. Your doctor will discuss these risks with you before the procedure.

How Long is the Recovery Time After a Heart Cath?

After the procedure, you will be monitored for a few hours to ensure stability. You may need to lie flat for a period of time to minimize the risk of bleeding from the catheter insertion site. Most patients can return home the same day but should avoid strenuous activities for a few days.

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We know how critical a healthy heart is to a healthy body. It’s through our highest expectations in quality and excellence through innovation that we’re able to keep our patients’ hearts healthy for years to come. Want to learn more about our patient-centered, specialized cardiac care? Discover our wide range of cardiac care services or ask your primary care provider for a referral today.

Learn what to expect before, during and after a heart cath at AHH.

When deciding whether to go to an emergency room (ER) or make an appointment with your primary care doctor or cardiologist, it is important to consider the symptoms you are experiencing and the severity of them. Dr. Vijay Raja, interventional cardiologist, explains.

When to go the ER

“If you’re having any symptoms that are out of the ordinary or brand new, debilitating or just scary, that’s what an emergency room is perfect for. That’s why Arkansas Heart Hospital is open 24/7 and available,” says Dr. Raja.

Debilitating symptoms may be chest pain, shortness of breath, or fainting, which can be signs of a heart attack. You seek medical attention by calling 911 or visiting your nearest ER right away.

Symptoms of a heart attack:

  • Severe or persistent pain – If you’re experiencing severe, persistent, or new and unexplained chest pain that doesn’t go away with medication, rest, or over-the-counter medication, seek emergency medical attention. This may feel like a crushing or searing pain that radiates to your arms, neck, jaws or back.
  • Shortness of breath – Unexplained difficulty breathing or feeling like you can’t catch your breath, could be a sign of a heart or lung condition. Go to the ER instead of waiting to make an appointment with a cardiologist.
  • Dizziness or fainting – If you’re experiencing if you’re feeling dizzy, lightheaded or faint, this could be a sign of a cardiac event. Seek medical attention as soon as possible.

When to make an appointment with a doctor

What if you are not experiencing these severe symptoms? It’s better to make an appointment with your primary care doctor or cardiologist for further testing and evaluation rather than going to the ER.

“For things that are progressive and are not doing as well as they were a week ago, a month ago, six months ago, that’s when your primary care doctor and cardiologist are there to get testing and rule out certain things,” Dr. Raja says. “That’s what we do for a lot of patients – give them that peace of mind that it is or not their heart.”

A benefit of making an appointment with a doctor if they know your health history, what medications you are taking and what chronic conditions might need to be considered in your treatment. Plus, the co-pay for a visit to your doctor’s office will cost far less than a trip to the emergency room. This option can also help you avoid the long wait times typically found in an emergency room.

Even if you are not experiencing any major symptoms, it is always a good idea to make an appointment with your doctor, who will do a physical exam and review your medical history to determine if you should be referred to a cardiologist for further testing and treatment.

Sudden cardiac arrest can happen anywhere, anytime to anyone, often without warning. That’s why it’s vital to know how to use an AED. Arkansas Heart Hospital walks you through the steps.

Determine your risk for cardiovascular disease and take action today by talking with one of our cardiologists or your primary care physician.

A pantry stocked with basic ingredients is one of the secrets to making cooking easier, convenient and enjoyable for anyone, especially those on the bariatric surgery eating plan.

“A well-stocked pantry keeps you in control of your meal choices and makes meal prep/planning a breeze,” says Courtney, bariatric dietician at The Bariatric & Metabolic Institute at Arkansas Heart Hospital.

To help you start your journey to the perfect pantry, Courtney has assembled a list of pantry basics you can pick up today.

Spices and seasoning blends:

Spices and seasonings are the backbone of flavor in cooking. With little effort, they transform a simple dish into something delicious for the whole family.

  • Aromatics
  • Basic seasoning blend-garlic powder/pepper/kosher salt
  • Bay leaves
  • Black peppercorns
  • Chili powder
  • Chipotle chili pepper
  • Chinese five-spice powder
  • Cumin
  • Curry powder
  • Dill Weed
  • Everything but the Bagel
  • Garlic powder
  • Ground cayenne red pepper
  • Italian seasoning
  • Kosher salt
  • Lemon pepper
  • McCormick Mediterranean
  • Mexican Seasoning Blend
  • Onion powder
  • Onions
  • Paprika (regular & smoked)
  • Poultry seasoning
  • Rosemary
  • Sea salt
  • Shallots
  • Slap Ya Mama
  • Spiced Sea Salt
  • Thyme
  • Tony Chachere’s
  • Whole garlic cloves

If you like garlic with a little kick, try this grilled pork tenderloin and firecracker slaw.

A selection of high-quality oils and vinegars is essential for enhancing flavors and creating dressings and marinades.

Vinegars/Oils:

  • Apple cider vinegar
  • Canola oil
  • Extra virgin olive oil*
  • Red wine vinegar
  • Rice bran oil
  • Rice wine vinegar (unseasoned)
  • Rice wine vinegar*
  • Sea salt
  • Sesame oil*
  • White vinegar
  • White wine vinegar

Don’t forget the stocks. Better than Bouillon is one of our dieticians’ favorites!

Broths/stocks:

  • Better than Bouillon*
  • Bone broth

Condiments and sauces can elevate the taste of any dish and add complexity to your meals. We highly recommend these essentials.

Condiments/miscellaneous

  • Almond flour
  • Canned chicken
  • Salmon packets*
  • Soy sauce
  • Splenda or other calorie free sweeteners
  • Sugar free ketchup
  • Tuna packets*
  • Worcestershire sauce

You’ll find at least one of these basic ingredients in all our bariatric-approved recipes. Having them on hand makes meal planning and preparation so much easier.

*Refrigerate after opening.

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The Bariatric & Metabolic Institute at Arkansas Heart Hospital offers physical and mental support for life. When you need healthy recipes, our team is there with guidance and resources to help through clinic appointments, a private support group and weekly live discussions on a variety of topics.

Find a bariatric surgeon at BMI, learn if you qualify for bariatric surgery and see our weight loss surgery financing options.

Beginning a healthy diet starts with one of the most essential places in your home – the fridge. Getting rid of the not so healthy products in your fridge can help put you in the right mindset and reduce temptation so you are set up for success.

Courtney, dietitian at the Bariatric & Metabolic Institute (BMI) at Arkansas Heart Hospital, shares items that she suggests bariatric patients, those wanting to lose weight or anyone eating a healthy diet, should toss out.

Liquid Calories

Courtney SutterfieldRemove sugary drinks like soda and juices. Seemingly harmless, these sugary drinks can stop weight loss progress and even make you gain pounds. One can of soda has around 39 grams of sugar, 39 grams of carbs and 150 calories. This means that drinking one soda a day could lead to a pound of weight gain every 13 days.

Unfortunately, juices are in the same category as soda. Although marketed as healthy, they are packed with sugar, calories and carbs that can stall weight loss and can cause insulin resistance, which can lead to conditions such as type 2 diabetes.

If you’re looking for a healthy way to add flavor to your drinks, Courtney suggests adding lemons and limes to your bottled water.

High Carb Condiments

Condiments are sneaky. Items like BBQ sauce, ketchup and salad dressings are tasty for a reason – they contain sugar and preservatives, which can increase body fat and put a kink in your healthy diet. And no one eats only one serving of these condiments. Some BBQ sauces contain 7 grams of sugar and carbs per tablespoon.

If you can’t live without condiments, Courtney suggests opting for sugar free ketchup, BBQ sauce, steak sauce, marinades and dipping sauces. Her favorite is G Hughes BBQ sauce, which contains only 10 calories and no carbs or sugar per 2 tablespoons.

Freezer Foods

Premade, frozen meals are quick, easy and may be marketed as healthy, but unfortunately, they are quick and easy because they are packed with sugars, carbs and preservatives.

If you want convenience, replace frozen meals with frozen vegetables, which retain nutrients, vitamins and minerals, are low-cost and can reduce food waste.

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If you’re looking for a safe and effective solution to weight loss and weight-related conditions such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, type 2 diabetes, sleep apnea and more, our team is ready to chat about your bariatric surgery options. Get started at bmi.arheart.com.