Heart Health

Young at Heart: Cardiac Care Team Celebrates Patient’s 105th Birthday During Annual Appointment

Published: Feb. 7, 2023

During her annual cardiology appointment at Methodist Physicians Clinic on Jan. 31, Bessie Langer of Council Bluffs grew confused as 11 staff members entered her exam room.

As soon as they started singing “Happy Birthday,” Bessie understood. Her eyes began to well with tears.

“They’re my special people,” said Bessie, who turned 105 the day prior. “I really feel that in my heart.”

Heart-Healthy Habits

Bessie was born in a small farmhouse in Tennant, Iowa, in 1918. The second eldest of 11 children, she never got to play sports like her younger siblings.

“We were in charge of helping with extra chores,” she said of her elder sister and herself. “That’s the way we lived.”

But if she could have, she would have played basketball, as her love for the game still runs deep.

“My favorite team is Kansas,” she said. “I really enjoy Bill Self and the way he handles his boys.”

Her other true loves include Mountain Dew, Hershey’s Nuggets – but only in moderation, she insists – crossword puzzles and staying active. For years, in fact, she rose before the sun to squeeze in a workout before heading to her office job. 

“Now, I enjoy my little floor and chair exercises,” she said, demonstrating one of them by lifting both legs and straightening her knees. “Like this, you see?”

Bessie Langer and Dr. Joseph Ayoub
Cardiologist Dr. Joseph Ayoub greets his patient Bessie Langer.

Bessie, who suffers from congestive heart failure, has lived with a pacemaker since 2014 and is currently on medication for atrial fibrillation – or irregular heart rhythm. But according to her cardiologist, Joseph Ayoub, MD, her desires to keep moving and finding joy in life have been paramount to her ability to continue living independently in her small, two-bedroom apartment.

“Her attitude toward life is her No. 1 heart healthy habit,” Dr. Ayoub said. “Without a doubt, that makes a difference in a person’s long-term health. No. 2, you don’t live to be 105 with unhealthy habits. Things like diet and exercise matter. Sure, we’ve taken great care of her heart over the years, but she’s definitely made it easy for us.”

Heartfelt Care

Bessie, a widow, never did have children. But she looks forward to seeing her family of receptionists, specialists, nurses and technicians during each of her annual heart checks.

“I love these girls,” she said of the staff who had just finished serenading her. “I often refer to them as my girls. I love them very, very much. Dr. Ayoub, too. He’s a very special person. And the fact that they all remembered my birthday. Well, that really means a lot to me.”

“Of course, I believe Methodist provides the best possible cardiac care for patients in the metro area,” Dr. Ayoub said. “But it’s our commitment to our patients’ quality of life that makes us unique. We’re not just taking care of numbers here. This isn’t just a job for us. What matters to them truly matters to us.”

Bessie Langer
Bessie Langer turned 105 on Jan. 30, 2023.

“They’re My Lifeline”

After Bessie finished rifling through the box of cake pops her care team had brought in, she settled on Funfetti and Chocolate Hazelnut flavors.

She left the rest of her birthday treats for every member of her care team, noting they’ve been key in helping her feel young at heart for the past several years.

“I very seldom use the word old,” said Bessie, who prefers the term “well-seasoned.”

She continued: “More than anything, I’d say I’m just lucky. Because I’ve got these people here. They’re my lifeline.”

About the Author

Jessica Gill, the External Communications Manager for Methodist Health System, is a former television news anchor and journalist. She has a passion for story-telling and illustrating Methodist’s Meaning of Care.

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