Like her mother before her, Ruby Wright earned her nursing degree and for nearly four decades used what she’d learned to take great care of herself, her family and her patients.
So when shortness of breath in December 2010 led to a diagnosis of heart disease, she was genuinely taken aback.
She was even more so when a pre-operative X-ray captured a suspicious mass and further diagnostic testing revealed the presence of colon cancer.
“I never thought that I would be the one to have problems,” says Ruby, who always has followed her own advice about making good food choices, maintaining a healthy weight and staying active.
However, the Wichita native took the news in stride.
“I was surprised, but I didn’t really get upset — they presented it to me and I just did what I needed to do,” says Ruby, who had a stent placed in her heart, followed by surgery to remove the orange-sized cancerous mass in her colon.
While still in the recovery room, Ruby had a sudden-death episode. She was revived, but the life-saving CPR destroyed her new stent and it had to be redone.
“The doctors told me that my being in good shape was what saved my life,” says Ruby, who in October 2011 had a defibrillator implanted to help maintain a normal heart rhythm. Two years ago, she began working with caregivers at Via Christi’s Heart Failure Clinic. The clinic’s team, in partnership with her physician and cardiologist, helps Ruby manage her health so she can continue to remain active and enjoy life with her husband, John.
Located adjacent to Ascension Via Christi St. Francis, the Heart Failure Clinic’s multidisciplinary team helps patients better understand and manage their condition on a daily basis.
“They are wonderful, wonderful, wonderful,” says Ruby, adding that when you’re having difficulty breathing or your heart is palpitating, “it’s comforting to have someone you can call who knows you personally for advice.
“They know me, my medications and what I need to do to stay out of the hospital,” she says. “Best of all, they are really good listeners.”
Lisa Koch, the nurse practitioner who serves as Ruby’s care provider at the clinic, says she loves helping patients help themselves improve their quality of life.
“It’s their bodies and their health,” says Koch. “We simply provide support and direction so they can keep doing the things they love.”
For Ruby, that means working out at the YMCA with John and volunteering, using her nursing knowledge and skills at her church, neighborhood recreation center and through the Black Nurses Association.
Says John: “She’s always been a busy bee and she still is today.”