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THIS IS Anne's Story

This is Anne’s heart of gold

As a volunteer with Meals on Wheels for almost a decade, Anne Ertel is happy to deliver a nutritious dinner to those who might not otherwise get one. But for this Berks County resident, it’s about a lot more than food.

“It’s the visit – it’s the hugs and the help I can give,” said Anne, a social worker and retired physician liaison at Penn State Health St. Joseph Medical Center. “The relationships I form are very rewarding. These people are close to my heart.”

That’s why, when Anne began feeling chest discomfort one day last winter, she initially tried to talk herself out of thinking it could be anything serious. After all, she had promises to keep – meals to deliver!

As she considered the possibility that something was wrong, she fortunately had a previously scheduled visit to her long-time primary care provider, Dr. Robert Mandel at Penn State Health Medical Group ─ Robesonia. She knew his knowledge of her history and the office’s capability would direct her appropriately. At that visit, an EKG showed results that needed attention. She was taken by ambulance to St. Joseph Medical Center, where a heart catheterization showed a 95% blockage in one artery – addressed with a stent – and another artery with a 65% blockage that is now being treated with medication.

Prompt attention, Anne said, took her from chest discomfort to lifesaving care that ultimately restored her heart for service – both figuratively and literally.

“It was a wonderful experience,” said Anne, acknowledging the odd choice of words to describe a potentially life-threatening scenario. “It’s all due to the staff at St. Joseph’s – not just their expertise but their compassion.”

At a time of heightened political sparring and mean-spirited comments constantly on the airwaves, Anne said the kindness of the medical staff to her and to each other was especially noticeable.

“The ‘pleases’ and ‘thank yous’ were flying. It brought tears to my eyes and restored my faith in mankind,” she said. “Everything went like clockwork. Penn State Health is awesome.”

Back at her Robesonia home, Anne began doing virtual exercise classes through Berks Encore and took part in a three-month cardiac rehabilitation program offered by Penn State Health.

“It was absolutely wonderful,” she said. “The program is tailored to each individual, using weights, isometrics and gym equipment. I could go at my own pace, and I felt confident, knowing I was being monitored the whole time.”

These days, Anne is feeling stronger, heartened by the care she received that enabled her to get back to doing what she loves most. She’s walking the dog, paddling her kayak and, most importantly, serving up a heaping helping of encouragement as she passes meals through her neighbors’ doors.

“I feel so good and so thankful,” she said, advising everyone, especially women, to be in tune with their body’s messages – no matter how subtle. “I had no sweating, no shortness of breath and no pain down my arm. I just knew I didn’t feel like me.”

Ertel said she is especially thankful for the immediate attention she got at Penn State Health Medical Group ─ Robesonia. “We were an underserved area previously, and Penn State Health has been a real shot in the arm,” she said.

This is the health Anne needs to live the way she wants.