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Wednesday, June 5, 2024

One WMCHealth Employee's Path to a Healthier Heart

Posted By: Advancing Care

Tinesha Schell, a dedicated WMCHealth employee, considered herself healthy, but something was always holding her back. On hikes, she lagged behind her husband and dogs, out of breath far sooner than her companions. Swelling in her legs and difficulty climbing stairs worsened and added to her frustration—even lying down to read or sleep became a challenge.

She first sought help from her primary care doctor, who switched her to a new blood pressure medication. However, even with this new prescription, her symptoms persisted.

One night, unable to reach her bed without help, Schell’s husband rushed her to HealthAlliance Hospital.

An echocardiogram and stress test revealed hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM), a thickening of the heart muscle that obstructs blood flow. To help explain her symptoms, cardiologists showed her an image comparing her heart's blood flow to a kinked garden hose.

"It replicated exactly what I was trying to tell everybody I was feeling," Schell recalls.

Tinesha running the Kingston Kiwanis Classic

Following a three-day hospital stay, Schell was referred to Srihari S. Naidu, MD, director of the Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy program at Westchester Medical Center, for further testing. An MRI and genetic testing confirmed her HCM was hereditary. Her father, after years undiagnosed, had open-heart surgery for the same condition. Tragically, her grandfather had suffered a fatal cardiac arrest due to the disease.

"My father took three years to get diagnosed. I was diagnosed in three days," Schell says. "I'm really grateful for that."

After switching Schell's medications to those more appropriate for HCM, Dr. Naidu noted a positive change in her symptoms and echocardiogram. With Dr. Naidu's guidance, Schell modified her diet and began exercising regularly, ultimately losing 30 pounds and improving her breathing and stamina.

"Tinesha's case underscores the expertise of our program," Dr. Naidu explains. "Her HCM was subtle and could have been missed elsewhere. Her positive outcome, without invasive procedures, proves the power of specialized care."

"Now I run 25 miles a week! Things I took for granted—lying down to read, climbing stairs—are no longer a struggle."

Though she continues to get regular checkups, Schell is thriving. The HCM team's vigilance even helped manage a recent, unrelated blood clot issue.

"Being a WMCHealth employee myself, I see the care we provide from a whole new perspective now,” says Schell. “It makes me so grateful."

This spring, Schell's inspiring determination was on display as she completed a 5K run—a testament to her newfound strength and the transformative care she found at WMCHealth.

For more information on the Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy program, visit our website or call 866.962.4327.

Tinesha and her husband enjoying the HealthAlliance Honors Gala in May