14:29 PM

After a Heart Failure Diagnosis, Forsyth Woman Leans on Family and Faith to Strengthen her Heart and Soul


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When reflecting back on the last 12 months, Karen Pellant, of Forsyth, shares how her life and her health have been transformed. “It started in January about a year ago. I had gotten sick with COVID, but was still having trouble breathing,” said Pellant. “I went to my primary care provider in Miles City and they did a chest x-ray and it came out okay. The next thing we did was look at my heart.” 

Kara Erickson, a physician assistant at Holy Rosary Healthcare, suggested that they do an echocardiogram, to get a picture of Pellant’s heart and to identify any potential problems with the valves and chambers of her heart. Especially for women, heart disease doesn’t always present in the common ways that most people are familiar with. With her fatigue and shortness of breath, Erickson believed it was important to check Karen’s heart. 

Through the tests, they diagnosed Pellant with acute heart failure and found, at that time, her heart had an ejection fraction (EF) of just 18 %, a measurement of percentage of blood ejected each time a heart squeezes. A normal ejection fraction is 50 - 75%. 

“I was given medication and was doing better,” said Pellant. “But in March, my heart went into A-fib, and I was left really struggling. I could barely walk at that point.” 

Atrial fibrillation (A-fib) is an irregular or rapid heart rhythm that can cause the heart to pump less efficiently, leading to increased risk of stroke and heart failure. It was recommended that Pellant travel to St. Vincent Healthcare in Billings to see a specialist. After an evaluation, Dr. Robert Terry, at the SCL Health and Vascular Institute, performed a surgery to implant a cardioverter defibrillator (ICD), a device that monitors Pellant’s heart rate and can deliver an electric shock to restore a normal heartbeat. 

While the implant could help maintain Pellant’s normal heart rate, strengthen her heart, and help prevent additional serious consequences, to help her regain her heart function and strength, it was recommended that Pellant start cardiac rehabilitation in addition to other major lifestyle changes. 

“Initially, it was a real struggle to rebound,” said Pellant. “It took me six months to dig out of it.” 

Taking it one day at a time, Pellant worked closely with the cardiac rehab team at St. Vincent Healthcare, through monthly in-person appointments, a daily at-home rehab regimen, and changes to her diet and daily routines to improve her health. 

“I got through all of it because I had a wonderful team,” said Pellant when talking about her cardiac rehab team. “It was nice to be able to do it at home and not have to travel. I stayed in contact with them over text, we talked once a week, and we continued to follow up on my regimen.” 

Her team had just as many nice things to say about Pellant and the work she has put in during her rehabilitation. 


“She is an absolute Rockstar! She even took her scale with her on vacation and has been motivating others to follow a healthy diet,” said Mandy Frickle, RN and Program Coordinator for Cardiac Rehabilitation at St. Vincent Healthcare. “She completely changed her lifestyle around.” 

After almost a year of hard work and dedication, Pellant’s heart function has improved greatly and her strength and stamina have returned. At her last appointment, her EF was measured near 40%, a near normal measure. She has also lost 55 pounds during her rehabilitation. 

“‘Through it all, I came out on the other side a much stronger and healthier person,” Pellant shared. “Before ‘it was just my heart, it was pumping and I never gave it another thought’. I never understood how extremely important all of those (lifestyle and health indicators) are. As long as I have a breathing breath in me, I will follow what I am supposed to do to stay healthy.” 

She shared that in addition to having a great care team, her faith and family, including her husband, four children and four grandchildren helped her to continue to stay motivated and focused on her health. 

“I had so much support. Without faith, prayers and family I don’t know if I would have made it. They keep me positive,” she shared. “This is what I have to do for the rest of my life and I will continue to do it for them.”