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Fighting for a Healthier Lifestyle

JPS Health Network, Morgan Bridges, Fighting for a Healthier Lifestyle

"When I met Morgan Bridges, he shared his whole story with me and how he really had help regaining his life. He was going down a negative path, but ever since getting care at JPS Health Network, he has transformed his life. He always said, 'I wouldn't be here if it wasn't for JPS,'" said Almarie Talavera, Dietitian, Clinical Nutrition.

Many people are hesitant to go to the hospital because they assume everything will be okay. They ignore warning signs and don't take proactive measures to combat an illness at its earliest stage. Initially, Bridges had the same thought, but he decided to listen to the signs and seek medical treatment, which saved his life.

"I wasn't feeling too well. People were noticing things and suggested I go to the hospital," Bridges said. "At first, I was being hardheaded and didn't want to go, so I kept waiting because I thought everything would be okay. But one morning, I woke up, my legs were swollen, it was hard for me to breathe, I couldn't walk long distances, and I was passing out at work. So, when I decided to go to the hospital the first time, they didn't let me go home, and they kept me for about a week. I had a lot of fluid built up, so once they got that off, I left."

After being discharged, Bridges still wasn't feeling well. He returned to work, but the feeling worsened. He asked a co-worker to drop him off at the hospital, and that's when he discovered that his condition was more serious than he had thought.

"When I got to the emergency room the second time, they were examining my neck. I guess whatever they felt on my neck concerned them, and he said, 'You're not going anywhere.' That's where it all started," said Bridges. "They ended up keeping me for over a week and a half, and I remember being in so much pain. They said I had a heart attack and that my heart was only pumping at about 15 percent. I was very weak."

After being released from the hospital, Bridges was advised to establish care with a primary care physician, which began his journey with JPS.

"I had originally met Bridges in February 2023, a month after he was initially hospitalized, and they discovered he had congestive heart failure," said Sandeep Kamath, MD, Cardiologist. "At that time, his ejection fraction, which is the percentage of blood ejected out of its ventricle, was less than 20 percent. The hospital discharged him with a life vest, which is a wearable defibrillator, and a low dose of medications for heart failure."

"At the end of the day, you have to want to get better, and I wanted to. I wanted to live."

The hospital began Bridges on medication to initiate the healing process. However, with significant health issues, it is crucial to follow up with a primary care physician. They can develop a treatment plan that best fits a patient's needs.

"After seeing Bridges for the first time and assessing his needs, I converted his medications and then gradually started adjusting them," Dr. Kamath said. "By July 2023, six months after his diagnosis, his ejection fraction was at 60 to 65 percent, which is normal."

Bridges was motivated to improve because he didn't want to continue living like this. Dealing with a heart attack and being diagnosed with congestive heart failure was tough, and at first, he began thinking back on the decisions he had made in his life.

"I used to smoke, drink, and do drugs, and when I found out about my diagnosis, I blamed myself for it because of how my lifestyle was. It just made me start thinking about what I did to get here. I didn't love myself at that time," Bridges said. "Since finding out, I have stopped them all and have been sober for over a year. I just leaned on my faith, and it helped me. When I started healing in all aspects, my mind started to be clearer about things, and it made me think back to a time I was sitting in the front yard of a friend's house, and I felt a sharp pain, and then it stopped. I realized that's when I started having my heart attack."

Bridges initially felt scared after receiving his diagnosis because he didn't believe he had long to live. He thought that congestive heart failure was "unfixable." Despite these feelings, he remained determined to educate himself and improve his health. He received guidance from a dietitian to understand how his diet could impact his health. Their session extended beyond just discussing food for congestive heart failure; she took an approach that helped to improve his overall well-being.

"When meeting with Bridges, I took on more of a motivational interviewing approach, and I think he really thrived with that type of approach because sometimes, when you dealt with dark moments in your life, taking this almost kind of psychology approach to nutrition is better and more efficient," said Talavera. "He was very responsive to it. We worked on his goals, like 'I want to follow things like going to the gym and including more veggies.' So, we really worked through his barriers and took them step by step. He was seeing weight loss, and his A1C was improving, so he enjoyed it."

Bridges aims to inspire others to pay attention to their bodies' signals and take preventive steps to avoid similar experiences.

"I'd advise individuals to get their checkups, even if they are healthy," Bridges said. "Don't wait until something is an emergency because sometimes it can be too late. It doesn't hurt to get checked out. I was one of those people who would wait, too, but I've learned that getting checked out doesn't hurt because you can stop whatever's trying to progress in your body if you start early."

Bridges' experience showcases his determination and resilience. He took the necessary steps to practice a healthier lifestyle. Hearing that you have congestive heart failure isn't easy, but it's important for patients to understand that with proper care, this condition can be managed.

"I want people to read Bridges' story and know that congestive heart failure is a treatable disease. The earlier that it's identified and aggressively treated, the better the likelihood of response," Dr. Kamath said. "Bridges' story highlights having a trusting relationship with your provider. He did everything that was asked of him, and that was very important. He's just one of those patients who always showed up and did what he was supposed to. He was on top of all of his medications, and he was very motivated to get better, and he did."

Bridges is an example of a patient who wanted to get better. Sometimes, many individuals receive their diagnosis and stop there. Bridges didn't want this to be the end of his journey.

"Some people give up on their life after finding out a diagnosis. When something drastic happens, like in my case, that doesn't make them want to fight and do better," Bridges said. "At the end of the day, you have to want to get better, and I wanted to. I wanted to live."