LiveWell Blog

Heart Patient and Cardiac Rehab Nurse Recognized for Dedicated Service to Recovering Patients

When Bonnie Sisko talks to heart patients about their post-procedure care, she brings more than clinical experience.

Sixteen years ago Sisko, a nurse in Wayne UNC Health Care’s Cardiac and Pulmonary Rehab department, herself underwent open-heart surgery to correct a heart defect and followed up her procedure with Cardiac Rehab.

Earlier this month, Sisko was recognized with a national award from Mended Hearts for her dedication and heartfelt support of patients recovering from heart procedures. Mended Hearts is a national charity that functions as a support group for patients suffering from heart disease.

“It’s very rewarding working in this job and getting an award like this,” said Sisko. “For me, it’s all about getting patients to realize there is life after open-heart surgery or a stent.”

This is the kind of encouragement Sisko shares with her patients daily, as she recalls the challenges she faced throughout her own recovery.

“Often, patients will say you don’t understand what we’re going through,” said Sisko. “I let them know that I truly do understand – that I’ve had open heart surgery. It’s important to take things one day at a time.”

Donna Peedin, Manager of Cardiopulmonary Rehab at Wayne UNC, said in her award nomination for Sisko that she was a natural fit for the program. “Not only was she very well prepared professionally, she knew firsthand how such a program of lifestyle change and risk modification could alter your life.”

Peedin went on to describe Sisko as a valuable link between the patient and their medical doctors and a diligent patient advocate.

Sisko advocates for patients not only in her role in Cardiac Rehab but also through her volunteer role with Mended Hearts, which she’s done for about 10 years.

“Not everyone who comes to Mended Hearts has been in Rehab or comes to Rehab,” said Sisko. “Many of them have had surgery, and they now have this lifestyle change they need to learn to live with.  At the meetings, we share our experiences and members can talk to other patients about what they’ll be facing or what changes they’ll need to make.”

When patients feel discouraged, Sisko said she and other volunteers try to restore their hope and faith that they can return to their normal lives following a life-altering diagnosis.

In September, Sisko was recognized with the Mended Hearts’ Sydney & Helen Shuman Nurse Recognition Award, which the organization established to show appreciation to the nurses who made a positive difference in their care and presence. The award included a $250 cash prize.

A nurse for 37 years (with 26 years at Wayne UNC), Sisko has her Bachelor’s in Nursing from East Carolina University and Cardiac Rehab Nurse certification. She was named a Great 100 nurse in 2010.