Raising awareness about heart conditions has always been part of Jaime Waddingham’s life. As a paramedic, Waddingham was a first responder who to treated many patients dealing with heart problems. As an American Heart Association instructor, she taught others how to provide lifesaving aid to victims experiencing a variety of issues, including heart conditions. However, when Waddingham’s daughter, Landry, was born, heart conditions became a much more personal subject.
When Landry was born, she was diagnosed with a congenital heart defect called ventricular septal defect, a hole in the wall between the ventricles of her heart. At just 9 months old, she had her first open heart surgery. Two months later, she had another surgery for a rare abdominal defect called situs inversus.
“I have always been passionate about the awareness of all types of heart issues,” Waddingham said. “However, with her defect, I have become even more passionate about awareness, especially for congenital heart defects.”
Today, Waddingham continues to teach about heart conditions and lifesaving as the ACLS/PALS instructor in Nebraska Methodist College’s Professional Development program. Together, she and Landry, now 7, team up to tell others about congenital heart defects and to inspire them not to be afraid of living life to the fullest despite a heart condition.
“Landry is such a strong, happy, sweet little girl. You would never guess anything is or has ever been wrong with her,” Waddingham said. “She embraces it and doesn’t let it slow her down.”
Together, they sell pins created by Landry as well as paper hearts to raise awareness for heart conditions and money for the American Heart Association. They also encourage people to participate in the American Heart Association’s Heart Walk, to be held May 10 at Miller’s Landing in Omaha.
Waddingham said seeing what Landry and so many other children have gone through makes her even more passionate about raising awareness of the need for more research about the conditions. While Landry lives a relatively normal day-to-day life, she sees a cardiologist each year for a checkup on her heart. At some point, Landry may have to undergo another heart surgery to finish patching the hole in her heart, and she may also need pacemaker. Waddingham hopes that future advancements will improve treatment for her daughter as well as other patients with heart defects.
“In light of American Heart Month, I just want people to be aware that there are a lot of people affected by both congenital heart defects and heart disease,” Waddingham said. “Heart problems really do not discriminate, and too many people are affected by them.”
Waddingham said evidence shows that research for congenital heart defects is underfunded.
According to the Children’s Heart Foundation, twice as many children die of congenital heart defects than all types of pediatric cancer combined; however, funding for pediatric cancer is five times greater than that for congenital heart defects.
Jaime and Landry have formed a team to walk at the American Heart Association Heart Walk on May 10. If you'd like to join their team, you can register below.
Nebraska Methodist College student Ashley Powers has a congenital heart defect, but you would probably never know it.
“I just don’t let it stop me from doing anything,” Powers said.
Powers was born with two holes in her heart, transposition of the great arteries and stenosis of the pulmonary valve. She had her first heart surgery when she was just five days old, and her second heart surgery at the age of 3.
But since then, Powers has lived a pretty normal life, including playing sports like volleyball, softball and track, and pursuing her dream of a career in nursing. That’s a message she likes to share with other children born with congenital heart defects as well as their parents. Powers’ message carries even more weight this month. February is American Heart Month, which is devoted to heart health awareness.
“Even though it’s been very hard and taken a lot of determination, we kids can do it,” Powers says. “We can still grow up and be whatever we want to be.”
Powers, who just celebrated her 22nd birthday Feb. 19, is currently proving that point. She is a student in Nebraska Methodist College’s traditional nursing program and currently works in the radiology department of Children’s Hospital & Medical Center.
“I constantly get to see all the heart patients, and I absolutely love it,” she said. “I always want to help and talk with them and give them the hope that they need.”
Powers said her own experience of growing up and receiving regular checkups for her heart at Children’s is what inspired her to pursue a career in nursing.
“I really fell in love with nursing because it’s really such a caring point,” she said. “You are with the patient through everything.”
Powers said her inspiration is Jenny Strawn, a nurse at Children’s. Strawn has been Powers’ nurse since she was a day old. Powers still continues to see Strawn to this day when she goes in for her regular checkups.
To Powers, American Heart Month is a chance for people to take time to understand all kinds of heart ailments. She said people should understand that heart conditions can affect everyone — young and old, male and female — and they aren’t just limited to heart disease and heart attacks. However, as Powers illustrates in her own life, heart conditions don’t have to get in the way of living a normal life. With proper care and regular checkups, those with heart conditions can still live active lives and pursue their goals.
Ashley has formed a team to walk at the American Heart Association Heart Walk on May 10. If you'd like to join her team, you can register below.
Amy Clark, Ph.D., is Nebraska Methodist College’s new Dean of Health Professions, overseeing 19 undergraduate, graduate and certificate programs. Clark has 16 years of experience working in healthcare and 12 years of experience in healthcare education. She took a moment this week to discuss her background in healthcare, advice for students and her life outside of Nebraska Methodist College.
What is your background as a health professional?
Prior to becoming a full-time instructor, I was a medical social worker and worked with pediatric and adult populations. My first job as a medical social worker was at Methodist Hospital in 1999, where I worked on the old Oncology floor. I transitioned to UNMC and became a member of the Bone Marrow Transplant team where I conducted psychosocial assessments for patients and filled in for the Liver Transplant Team. I truly was a member of a healthcare team, and by that I was fortunate to work with so many different disciplines and interact professionally with so many wonderful individuals within Allied Health.
What made you want to become a healthcare educator?
I have been asked, as a social worker, why I teach at healthcare institutions. To me it is a very simple answer — I truly love working within the medical field and with healthcare students. The very first class that I taught was a Healthcare Ethics course. Not only did the students love my social work stories, but I enjoyed introducing them to the many complicated scenarios that exist when working with patients and their families. There is no other time in a patient’s life where they are exposed to people who will see them when they are in such a vulnerable state. The role of a healthcare professional at that moment is so vast that instinct alone is not good enough. You truly have to go back to your training, clinical, and practicums and put into practice what you have been taught. It is a powerful thing to know as an educator that your students are responsible for caring for someone in their most stressful and intimate moments.
What are the advantages of pursuing careers in Allied Health?
There are so many advantages to working within an Allied Health profession. Students are now savvier about the cost and applicability of their education. To be able to have a “career in a year” as some of our certificate and associate programs allow is very appealing. The expectation now for many is that education does not end after your senior year in high school. We have so many options that are perfect for students who feel that desire to “help people” by working in the health profession, but don’t want the debt associated with a four-year degree.
What advice do you have for students considering a career in Allied Health?
My advice for any student, specifically one considering a profession in Allied Health, is to do a little research in terms of the professions that are “growing” and hiring now. You will often find that many of the careers are within Allied Health, and the demand will only increase. For on-campus students interested in Nebraska Methodist College, touring our campus will speak for itself.
Nebraska Methodist College truly sets itself apart from other local colleges and universities by having an office devoted to Student Health, many individual study rooms and state-of-the-art simulation areas. The Josie Harper Campus is an amazing facility with such great people on staff to go along with it.
What do you like to do outside of your job at Nebraska Methodist College?
I have three very active children — Jack, Luke and Kate — who really keep my time wrapped up, and I love every minute of it. We live in a small town outside of Omaha, so they are involved in every sport that is offered up to them. My sons are wrapping up basketball season, and my daughter, at seven years old, is already talking about the volleyball camps she wants to be in this summer. They are currently my hobby, although I love to cook and am training for a half marathon in the fall.
Imagine walking into a hospital waiting room where you don’t speak the same language as anyone on staff. You would have extreme difficulty telling a nurse or a doctor about your symptoms or understanding your prescribed treatment. For many in the rapidly growing Latino populations across our state and nation, this is the reality of our healthcare system.
Recent studies project our nation’s population to be 29 percent Latino by 2050. Research also suggests that Nebraska’s Latino population is expected to triple by 2050, accounting for 24 percent of the state’s overall population. Health professionals need to be prepared to serve growing Latino populations with individuals who may speak little to no English.
With that in mind, Nebraska Methodist College has introduced its new Spanish for Healthcare Professionals minor. The minor prepares nursing and Allied Health students to better interact with and serve Spanish-speaking patients. Graduates with the minor will be able to do a number of important tasks in Spanish, including taking a patient history, doing a patient assessment, developing a care plan for the patient, and presenting patient and care plan information to other Spanish-speaking health professionals.
By obtaining a Healthcare Spanish minor, graduates will make themselves more marketable to prospective employers. The minor will position students favorably for jobs in hospitals, clinics and community settings that serve large Spanish-speaking populations.
The Spanish for Healthcare Professionals minor is a total of 18 credit hours. The minor requires students to take six 3-credit courses over two years. Two courses are online, while four others are on campus.