Friday, February 24, 2017

Recovering from a ‘widowmaker’

Skaggs Foundation helps retired teacher receive the rehab he needed

At 64 years old, Arliss Stillings appeared to be the picture of great health.
Arliss Stillings is back to his active lifestyle
following a heart attack in October 2015. 

Stillings had retired from 20 years of teaching band and choir but remained active. His days of retirement included caring for two elderly women, helping at a friend’s business, serving as choir director at his church and running his own car detailing business. To maintain his active lifestyle, Stillings had taken the steps to protect his health.

“All indicators showed I was in good health,” he said. “It was great for me because I’d made it to 64 without any issues.”

That all changed one night in October 2015.

Stillings woke up about 3:30 a.m. in excruciating pain - pain he thought was from a gallbladder attack. He and his wife rushed from their home in Forsyth to Cox Medical Center Branson.

It wasn’t until he was heading into surgery that Stillings learned it wasn’t his gallbladder – he was having a heart attack.

“I had 100 percent blockage,” he said. “It’s what they call a ‘widowmaker.’”

In the hospital, Stillings learned about CoxHealth Cardiac and Pulmonary Rehabilitation Center but because Stillings had switched insurance providers in anticipation of soon being eligible for Medicare, his copay for rehab was going to be more than he could afford.

“I went home and thought I could just walk,” he said. “Then, I learned how important the cardiac part of rehab was in recovery.”

Thanks to the Skaggs Foundation cardiac rehab scholarship fund, which covers insurance co-pays when patients could not otherwise afford to attend rehab, Stillings was able to attend all 12 weeks of rehabilitation.

“The scholarship program, that was the only reason I came,” he said. “The best part of the rehab program was the security I felt by being here with all the monitors and nurses making sure I was OK.”

Highly trained nurses and staff worked with Stillings at each session, ensuring he was building strength and endurance while being safe.

“That confidence brought me forward,” he said. “My chest hurt so much after my heart attack and I was so weak. They helped me move forward though and set goals. If I was at home trying to do it on my own, I would have given up a thousand times.”

February is American Heart Month. If you would like to partner with Skaggs Foundation and help people like Stillings receive the care they need, visit or call 417-348-8998.

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