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Published on February 03, 2014

Heart patient tells her story to raise women's awareness

UHS News Release
Release:  Immediately
Contact:  Jon Tooley, 762-2336 or
February 3, 2014 

Candace Hamm was a slim, trim woman in her 60s when, one day last summer, she passed out on her way to her grandson's baseball game.  She didn't have a heart attack, but later, in the hospital, the problem was traced to a calcified aortic valve.  

In June she underwent open heart surgery and by September was back at her job at Nature's Market, the natural and organic food section of Wegman's in Johnson City.  Today she's doing fine - fitness-walking, line-dancing and attending cardiac rehabilitation on a regular basis at UHS Hospitals.  

On Friday, Feb. 7, Mrs. Hamm will join John Carrigg, Dr. Nancy Shumeyko, Dr. Hisham Kashou and other members of the UHS team for the "Go Red for Women" ribbon-cutting cremony at 10:30 a.m. at UHS Vestal.

At that time she'll be telling her story of recovery from open heart surgery and urging other women to take the symptoms of heart disease seriously.

While the aortic valve episode that occurred in 2013 came as a bit of a surprise, Mrs. Hamm had long known that she was likely to develop cardiac issues at some point in life.  "Both of my parents had heart disease," she said.  "In fact, my mother also had calcification of the aortic valve."

She said that the family history had prepared her for dealing with the situation, even though it materialized sooner than she expected.

"All of a sudden I became my mother," she said.  "It's a little scary how fast that happens."

Mrs. Hamm attributes her steady recovery to many factors.  She credits Cardiac Rehab at UHS Binghamton General Hospital with giving her the means to exercise systematically, plus the confidence and reassurance to resume a vigorous workout.

"You're a little hesitant after a heart episode about exerting yourself, but it's very safe here because it's all monitored," she said.  "It's a wonderful program that I would recommend to anybody."

Her husband Jim, who doesn't have a heart condition, nevertheless joins her in the Cardiac Rehab gym every time she goes there, as he's a member of UHS Hospitals' Health and Wellness Program. 

"We decided it was something we should do together," Mrs. Hamm said.

She also believes she has been able to regain cardiac health by working at a physically active job, as well as by eating the kinds of healthful foods she sells at the supermarket.

In line with those views, she recommends that women take time to become aware of their heart health, stay alert to women's unique heart symptoms and wear red on Feb. 7 to call attention to the "Go Red for Women" public awareness campaign. 

And she says women should stay as physically mobile as possible at every stage of life.

"Stay active," she said.  "Get up and move."

UHS is a locally owned, not-for-profit, 916-bed hospital and healthcare system serving Greater Binghamton and surrounding counties. Founded in 1981, UHS provides a full range of medical, surgical, rehabilitative and long-term care services from more than 60 locations around New York’s Southern Tier.

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