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Philanthropy Matters | Affecting the Future of Heart Health in Northeastern CT


February is American Heart Month, a time to remind us all to focus on our hearts, and encourage our families, friends, and loved ones to get involved in heart health.

According to the American Heart Association, cardiovascular diseases (heart disease, stroke, and other cardiovascular diseases) account for nearly 800,000 deaths in the US, or one out of every three deaths. With an average of one person dying from cardiovascular disease every 40 seconds, chances are we all know someone affected by heart disease. At Day Kimball Healthcare (DKH), we work hard each and every day to change these statistics and improve the odds for the residents of Northeastern Connecticut, and we’ve the Northeast community to thank for helping us do so.

DKH's Chain of Survival
Also referred to as the “chain of survival”, DKH stands ready with a high quality, comprehensive and coordinated program of cardiac care. From primary preventive, to emergency care, to testing and advanced procedures, to rehabilitation, each link in the chain is strengthened through highly trained and dedicated professionals with access to state-of-the art facilities made possible primarily through philanthropic support. Our Townsend Emergency Center and Cardiopulmonary Rehabilitation Center are just two examples of what we’ve been able to accomplish together, not only improving outcomes for patients of all ages and with all types of injuries, but in providing first-rate care for heart attack and stroke, from onset to recovery.

Our State-Of-The-Art Emergency Department
Completed in November of 2015, the Townsend Emergency Center was the result of hundreds of individuals, businesses, and organizations answering the call to our $3 million “Care in a Heartbeat Campaign” with gifts ranging from two dollars to $500,000 to build and equip a state-of-the art emergency care facility. As a result, patients who come to the DKH ED suffering from a cardiac or stroke event receive specialized care faster than CT and national averages. 

Led by ED Medical Director, Dr. Steven Wexler and a team of expert ED physicians and ED nurses certified in advanced cardiac life support, patients can be stabilized and transported to UMass Memorial Medical Center’s catheterization lab, a DKH partner in critical care, for immediate treatment. DKH has also earned designation by The Joint Commission as an Advanced Primary Stroke Center. Our stroke care team also collaborates with UMass neurologists by using cutting-edge tele stroke video-conferencing technology right at the patient’s bedside to rapidly diagnose and treat patients suffering a stroke. And thanks to an increased awareness and appreciation of the long-term benefits of prevention and rehabilitation services, our ability to provide the community with these life-saving measures is just the beginning of our relationship with cardiac and pulmonary patients.

Our Cardiac Rehab Program
In addition to seeing a patient through the trauma of a cardiac event, DKH is equipped to help in a patient’s recovery and improve their cardiovascular health through our Cardiopulmonary Rehabilitation Program. The final link in the chain of life, cardiopulmonary rehab is an essential step in reducing mortality, hospitalizations, and use of medical resources while improving the quality of life of patients following a cardiac event. 

Since the mid 1980’s, DKH has provided cardiac rehab services for patients with heart disease. In its infancy, and limited to only a few small rooms in the hospital, 30 to 40 patients were actively involved in a 12 to 15 week intensive rehabilitation program which was initiated in the hospital and continued on an outpatient basis. Lack of space however, placed limitations on needed equipment and limited education classes to only five people at a time. Recognizing the need for expansion and increasing access to the 13-town region, contributions to the 1989-90 annual fund enabled a small expansion within the hospital and the addition of a maintenance phase of the program in the Danielson Medical Center. 

With continued growth of the program, another major effort took place in 1995, raising $286,094 from the community to renovate the former Day Kimball Pediatric Center into a new spacious home for the program. The facility opened in June of 1997 and is where the Cardiopulmonary Rehabilitation Center remains today. The facility is handicapped accessible, featuring locker rooms, showers, a large exercise area, an education center, and specialized exercise equipment geared toward the diverse needs of patients. The 1997 renovation has proven to be invaluable in providing patients convenient and easy access to a high quality program and facility, and the community has continued to show its appreciation ever since.

Of particular note are the contributions made through an annual fundraiser that began in 2008 called the “Heart of Rock & Roll”, and put on by The Great Garage Band Reunion (TGGBR). Jim Millard and Tory Averna were two of the original band members who had become part of the cardiopulmonary rehab ‘family’ at DKH. Both had suffered heart attacks in 2007 within five weeks of each other and DKH’s rehab facility became a large part of their recovery. They were so pleased with their experience, the treatment, and personal attention that they had received from staff, they decided to put on a benefit concert to help supply the Center with funds for needed equipment. Held annually from 2008 to 2013, and with the help of Killingly High classmates Frank Cameron, and Bob and Sue Langevin of Allen Hill Tree Farm; major annual sponsors Putnam Bank and Gerardi Insurance; and the DKH Cardio Rehab staff, the event raised over $50,000 for the Cardiopulmonary Rehabilitation Fund to purchase state-of-the-art exercise equipment.
Staffed by a team of registered nurses and exercise physiologists, the Center currently treats anywhere from 45-55 patients per month and offers a four phase program including inpatient consultation, telemetry monitored exercise, education and counseling for heart-healthy living and prevention, and maintenance exercise under nursing supervision. 

Staff That Become Like Family
Often referred to by our patients as ‘family’, Clinical Coordinator and RN, Carol Artiaco, exercise physiologist, Brenda Rich-Pike, and Collette Cote, RN, collectively bring 80 years of experience to the program and service to DKH. The care and concern displayed for their patients goes above and beyond, and with its close proximity on the hospital campus to the emergency room, patients have the comfort of knowing that any emergent situation that may arise will be addressed quickly – something that Sylvia Miller, a faithful cardio rehab patient from Brooklyn, can personally attest to. 

Under the watchful eye of rehab staff, Sylvia began to show signs that something just wasn’t right. With appropriate monitoring by rehab staff and immediate consultation with her primary physician, Sylvia was brought directly to the DKH ED where it was determined that she was suffering from multiple pulmonary embolisms. She was treated and is slowly getting back to normal but with a new and greater appreciation for what the exercise program and clinical staff have done for her health and her life. 

Experiences like this have inspired patients like Jim and Tory of TGGBR, and countless others, to give back and support a program that has been instrumental in their recovery. Shortly after the completion of the Townsend Emergency Center, a legacy gift of $216,000 to the ED was received through the estate of Leonard and Barbara Wielock, a local couple who spent most of their lives in Quinebaug and were past patients of DKH. Leonard was also a cardiac rehab patient for 10 years, and he and his wife made the decision early on in their care that DKH was an important asset to the community and would be deserving of their support. 

In the spirit of American Heart Month, we call attention to these and other resources that DKH has been able to make available to help patients who have suffered a recent cardiac event, or are at risk of a cardiac event, and encourage you to avail yourself to these types of programs. A physician referral is all that is required to enter the cardio rehab program at DKH, so ask your doctor if you are eligible. If you are, come in for an assessment and our staff will get you started on the path to heart health with your personalized exercise prescription. 

Heart Disease Education Classes
Would you just like to know more about heart disease and prevention? Our heart disease education classes help to build awareness and understanding of heart disease and how to help prevent cardiac events through lifestyle modification. And they are not just for cardio rehab patients. Classes are free and open to the general public, and are held every Wednesday, from 10:30 to 11:30 a.m. and no pre-registration is necessary. Learn more >

Small Steps Add Up to Better Heart Health
When President Lyndon B. Johnson proclaimed American Heart Month in 1964, more than half the deaths in the US were caused by cardio vascular disease. Today, cardiovascular disease claims more lives each year than all forms of cancer and chronic respiratory disease combined (American Heart Association, 2017). The good news is that heart disease can often be prevented when people make healthy choices and manage their health conditions. If you haven’t done so already, affect the future of your heart, and the hearts you know and love, by getting involved in American Heart Month and spreading the word about the importance of heart healthy living.


Do you have questions, concerns, stories to share, or topics related to philanthropy and Day Kimball Healthcare that you’d like to learn more about? Please feel free to reach out to Kristen at 860-928-7141 or email


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