Patients suffering from unprecedented chest pains, or those without a personal or family history of cardiovascular problems, may not have the slightest desire to hear from Mended Hearts, but Jim Bushnell knows it’s important.
He’s an advocate for visiting all heart patients, whether they’re in need of a transplant or are just seeking answers for sudden, intense tightness in the chest. “Probably 60 percent of the patients I visit who only have chest pains as their admitting diagnosis turn out to be suffering from heart failure,” he says.
Bushnell knows firsthand how serious a seemingly innocuous symptom can be: Chest pains landed him a hospital catheterization lab a little more than 10 years ago. It was around that time that he was introduced to Mended Hearts. “The first time you go in for a cath procedure you go, ‘Wait a minute, I have a heart problem? I’ve never had a heart problem.’ Well, guess what? You do. Suddenly your mind spins because you have all kinds of questions,” he recalls.
In 2004, Bushnell co-founded Chapter 348 in West Plano, which later disbanded and merged into Dallas chapter 30 and Plano chapter 142. Jim has been an active leader of Dallas chapter 30 ever since. He’s served as the newsletter editor, vice president, and acting president of West Plano; the National Newsletter Chairman from 2011 to 2013; and three terms as the Dallas chapter 30 president. This past June, Mended Hearts recognized Bushnell’s exceptional service and named him “Mended Heart of the Year.”
Millie Henn, the executive vice president of Mended Hearts, nominated Bushnell for the award. “I admire and appreciate his energy and willingness to work hard and to promote Mended Hearts,” says Henn, adding that Bushnell is very generous with his time and his talents. “He’s been an ongoing visitor of heart patients and their families for years, and has an outstanding record of visiting.”
Indeed, when asked about his biggest accomplishment within the organization, Bushnell is most proud of his time spent talking with heart patients. As former president and, now, chair of the visiting committee for Chapter 30 in Dallas, he’s personally visited 10,000 heart patients on a one-to-one basis at hospitals in Dallas and nearby Plano
It’s important to catch people when they are at the beginning of having a heart issue, a time when they’ve got more questions than they have answers, says Bushnell. “That’s what keeps me going.”