Gloria and Richard "Dick" Power jokingly banter back and forth with an obvious sense of humor and ease that can only come from being married for more than 52 years. Both native New Englanders, they met and married in their late 20s, relocating several times as Dick advanced in his career with Westinghouse. They also built a large family of seven children -- a new and unusual experience for both, as Gloria is an only child and Dick has just one sibling. By the early 1970s, they found themselves in Chester County, living in West Chester and Wayne before moving to their current home in Downingtown in 1997.
The Powers' Downingtown living room is filled with evidence of their rich and rewarding lives. The shelves flanking the fireplace burst with photos of their children and 15 grandchildren ranging in age from 18 months to 21 years. Another wall features beautiful mounted photos taken by Dick during the couple's travels to Alaska, Europe, Asia, and South America. And scattered throughout are large wooden figurines crafted and painted by Dick in his basement woodworking shop. Gloria points to one of the wooden dogs "guarding" the front door, which Dick made for her as a birthday present.
"This keeps him busy and saves our marriage and our sanity," she says with a conspiratorial smile. "It also helps that I work part-time at the Upper Merion Library." An avid reader, Gloria started working at the library 25 years ago and now reads about three to four novels a week. Dick volunteers every week at the Coatesville VA Medical Center Nursing Home. And with all seven children still living in the immediate area, the couple stays active with family events and activities.
In addition to managing their busy lives, the Powers are also managing heart disease -- Dick since 1993, when he had his first heart attack and underwent bypass surgery, and Gloria since late 2009. They demonstrate the medical reality that women tend to develop heart disease an average 10 to 15 years later than men. Both are grateful they recently found what they call the "outstanding, patient-oriented care" available at Chester County Hospital.
"We feel very lucky to have this level of care so close by," Gloria says.
The combination of high caliber care and proximity to home helped save Dick's life in January 2008, when he had a heart attack and fell off his exercise bike at home. Gloria remembers that the paramedics revived Dick twice and rushed him to Chester County Hospital, even though the Powers really had no previous experience with the Hospital. "They said they had to take him to Chester County or he would die," she easily recalls. "There was no time to spare."
"I was fortunate that Dr. Mian Jan (Cardiologist) was there to put in a stent and save my life," Dick adds.
From the Emergency Department and through the Catheterization Lab, the experience over the next five days in the Hospital was nothing but positive, Gloria remembers. "I can't say enough good things about it. The nurses did everything to help him. A nurse was in the room every 20 minutes, there was very careful monitoring, and if he had any chest pain whatsoever it seemed like the whole Hospital moved!" she marvels. "It's a blessing we found out that Chester County Hospital is so good! The quality of care you get not just during but after a major procedure is so important, and they are so conscientious and patient-oriented."
Dick continues to receive follow-up care through West Chester Cardiology. Not long after his heart attack, he had a combined defibrillator/pacemaker implanted by cardiologist Hope Helfeld, DO, to treat atrial fibrillation (irregular heart rhythm) in early 2008.
"I like her even though she is a Yankee fan," Dick says with a sly wink, revealing his New England roots. "I like the fact that I can get all of my care -- very good care -- there."
Gloria followed Dick's lead a few months ago when it was discovered that three of her coronary arteries were blocked. For most of 2009, she had been experiencing noticeable shortness of breath that was later accompanied by what seemed to be indigestion. "At my age, 83, I assumed it was gastric reflux," she says. "And I was so busy taking care of everyone else there wasn't time to focus on myself. I had been in the hospital only seven times in my life -- to have my seven children."
While Christmas shopping in December, Gloria experienced such severe chest discomfort that, as she puts it, "I thought I would drop." Based on Dick's positive experiences, she knew she wanted to work with the cardiologists at Chester County Hospital. Dr. Jan performed a nuclear stress imaging test that showed the three blockages. In early 2010, he placed three stents to open the arteries, and Gloria, like her husband, is doing well.
"I wouldn't go anywhere but Chester County Hospital and I wouldn't let Dick go anywhere else," she says. "As I said, it truly is a blessing to have this kind of care so close by."
By Kristine M. Conner