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Jeanette’s Story




Walking In The Face Of Adversity

Jeanette Richard returned to Senior Services of Wichita in May of 2021. For years Jeanette was an active volunteer in the Senior Employment office and a regular member of the Downtown Senior Center. But, a chronic heart condition coupled with the onset of the Covid pandemic, had kept Jeanette away from the place she was once very active. Jeanette suffers from hereditary heart disease that she has battled for 30 years. She is now left with 10% heart function. On this particular day Jeanette planned to sign up for the Heartland 5K scheduled for September. Wearing oxygen and using a walker Jeanette explained that she was doing everything she could to keep up her stamina and had recently taken up walking. Her goal was to gain strength so that by September she would be able to walk the 3.2 mile course.

She breathlessly explained the struggles of the past year. At the young age of 44 Jeanette underwent a triple bypass. She has a pacemaker with a defibrillator attached. She also suffers from spinal stenosis and had 2 rods placed in her back. In the fall of 2020 she developed COPD and could barely walk across the room without wearing out. “My breathing was so labored I couldn’t complete a sentence” she says. Her doctors suggested she get her “things in order.”

But Jeanette wasn’t ready to give up. Her doctor recommended she see a specialist in Oklahoma City. She underwent a procedure to place a permanent pic line that delivers the medication Milrinone 24/7. Milrinone helps blood flow efficiently through the heart and out to other organs. She has a medication bag which is stored in a pack worn around her waist and weighs 4.5 pounds. During the holiday season of 2020 Jeanette did rehabilitation to gain more strength.

Upon returning to Wichita Jeanette decided to take matters in her own hands. This spring she began walking her neighborhood to increase stamina. “I was still on oxygen and, at first, I was only able to walk down the block. I’d have to sit down on the ground to catch my breath. That’s when I decided to get a walker”. Never one to give up Jeanette persisted with her walking routine and progressed to over 2 miles a day.

There were some setbacks that included a summer hospital stay due to an infection from the pic-line, a common side effect of the treatments. Then in August, Senior Services was forced to cancel the Heartland 5K due to low attendance and increased covid infections. This was a big disappointment! Jeanette chose this race as her goal when she first started walking. Her son John and home health nurse Rachel planned to walk with her while her cousin in Texas planned to walk and communicate with her via smartphone. Knowing how much this meant to
Jeanette Senior Services refused to let her down!

On October 6th Jeanette, along with Senior Services staff and board members, walked the Heartland 5K course. The Jeanette who came in was very different from the Jeanette who visited in May. Her stamina increased to walking nearly 3 miles every day. She no longer requires oxygen and while she uses the walker for balance during her walk, she’s able to manage other aspects of her life without it. The group took off at 9:00am with Jeanette decisively leading the way. She had yet another goal to achieve, aside from finishing the 3.2 mile walk, her goal now was to finish in less than 90 minutes. She stopped only once to allow others to catch up and completed the walk in 75 minutes! “She truly made my day” said Donna Johnson, Senior Services Board Member.

Jeanette has strong family ties. “I am so blessed” she says. “My determination comes from my family.” Jeanette lost her father when he was 44, her mother at 65 and brother at 53, all suffered a heart condition. “I’ve already set my next goal and that’s to make it to my 79th birthday next year. I will have lived longer than anyone in my family.”

Jeanette’s humility is as impressive as her inner strength. When asked how she could possibly stay so focused in the face of overwhelming challenges she modestly says “I’m not special. I just want to stay as healthy as I can for as long as I can. If I can do it then anyone can!”