A Valiant Effort to Encourage and Empower Others
As supervisor of social services at the Ferguson Community Empowerment Center, Valerie Valiant, 51, of Florissant, Mo., spends her days empowering individuals and families in the community to overcome barriers. Through the Pathway to Health initiative, a partnership of Christian Hospital and The Salvation Army with the center as home base, Valerie connects these families to vital resources at the hospital to address their health care needs. However, it wasn’t until her own hospitalization in the midst of the pandemic that she could personally attest to the high level of care and expertise being offered right here in north St. Louis County.
In August 2021, Valerie began experiencing breathing issues. She visited an urgent care where she was tested for COVID-19. Her results came back negative, and she was given medication and an inhaler. Unfortunately, her condition only worsened. On Sept. 13, she decided to go to the emergency room at Christian Hospital’s Northwest HealthCare. The team performed an array of tests and discovered something very serious with Valerie’s heart. She needed immediate treatment and was transferred to Christian Hospital.
When Valerie arrived at Christian Hospital, the heart team was already prepared and waiting. She underwent additional testing, including an ultrasound, EKG and cardiac catheterization. She was diagnosed with congestive heart failure and treated through the use of diuretics and medication to lower her blood pressure.
“I’ve had family members who have passed away from congestive heart failure,” shares Valerie. “But I didn’t lose any sleep over this diagnosis because I had no doubts in my medical team. I never felt hopeless or defeated.”
Along with her team of doctors and nurses, Valerie was comforted by a familiar face: her friend Alisha Morris who is a registered nurse on the vascular access team at Christian Hospital and has more than 30 years of service with BJC HealthCare. Friends since the sixth grade, Valerie was so thankful for Alisha’s presence. “She let me know in a friendly, loving way how serious of a condition I was in,” says Valerie. “She listened to the nurses and doctors and helped make it easier for me to understand what was going on with my heart and how to explain it to my family.”
“It meant everything,” says Alisha. “It felt good being able to articulate exactly what the doctor was telling her in layman’s terms she could fully understand. I do this for patients every day but to do this for someone you love, it’s different but in a sense, the same. She had never been hospitalized like this before, so I think it was helpful and reassuring for her.”
Besides the births of her two sons, this was Valerie’s first hospital stay, and she could not have been more impressed. “From the moment I got there until the time I left, it was five-star treatment,” raves Valerie. “From housekeeping to dietary to the medical staff, I was amazed and impressed. The personal care I received was amazing. I felt like I was part of their family and connected to a support system that cared about me personally. I wouldn’t have ever imagined a hospital stay like this.” With all the protocols in place, she also shares she had no fears being in the hospital during the COVID-19 pandemic.
After her cardiac catheterization, the heart team presented Valerie with options for how to proceed. To forgo further treatment and prevent her heart from worsening, she would need to make a complete lifestyle change. By providing a clear understanding of her heart condition, helping her begin her new healthy eating habits in the hospital and equipping her with all the tools and encouragement she would need, Valerie has been very successful since her discharge. Within only a month, she has improved her heart function by 20%.
She sees her specialist regularly and has even changed her primary care physician to a BJC provider at Christian Hospital.
“I would like to acknowledge Dr. Sanjaya Saheeta for being a spectacular clinician and genuinely caring about my condition,” says Valarie. “I’m also grateful for Nurse Practitioner Valerie Steele being straightforward about the condition of my heart and the limited options on having a surgery-free recovery.”
Valerie is passionate about educating others with congestive heart failure, continuing her mission to bridge the health care gap in our community and about sharing the positive experience she had at Christian Hospital.
“I’m now speaking on a personal and professional level for Christian Hospital. Christian Hospital saved my life. They deserve the credit, and the least I can do is express this to the community,” says Valerie.