The Inspiring Journey of One Heart Patient


Fia Moafanua used determination and resources to better his heath—now he wants others to know

Emily Bates, a Renown Health Heart Nurse Navigator, said it pretty succinctly: “Fia saved his own life.”

She’s referring to Fia Moafanua, a Reno resident who began a recent care journey with a visit to the ER and ended it with a new approach to living that has led to a desire to help others. It took three months of diligence and willpower, but the results have been amazing for Fia, his wife Nia, and their family.

Let’s start at the beginning of their journey.

Fia – a 35-year-old maintenance technician from Reno – was overweight and fatigued when he went to the ER at Renown Regional Medical Center with stomach problems.

 The Inspiring Journey of One Heart Patient
Fia and Nia Moafanua worked together to bring Fia a new start in life after he was diagnosed with congestive heart failure. Both joined the Motivate U program and changed their lifestyle.

“It was something I never experienced before,” Fia says. “I came in to check it and they asked if I could be admitted so they could do more blood work, because they saw signs of heart problems.”

In fact, Fia was diagnosed with congestive heart failure, a total surprise to him. Soon after his first discharge from the hospital, he was referred to Emily at the outpatient Heart Failure Program which she runs.

During his first visit, he told Emily he felt strange, and she observed that he was pale. She took his heart rate and was astonished – it was abnormally high in the 190s.  Emily immediately called in heart physicians and Fia underwent an ablation which uses thin, flexible wires called electrode catheters to destroy the cells that are causing a patient’s heart to beat too fast.

Emily closely monitored Fia over the next three months as part of his recovery.

Renown has several programs that help patients along and encourage the progress to keep them from being re-admitted to the hospital. It’s one of the reasons why it was recently chosen for the American College of Cardiology national heart Patient Navigation Program. Along with medications and monitoring, including extensive work with a nutritionist, Fia also joined Motivate U, an eight-week exercise and nutrition counseling program at a local gym offered through Hometown Health, which has often lead to good results for others.

It was something both Fia and Nia wanted to do.

“When they said he had to make a lifestyle change, I just put both of us in it,” Nia says about Motivate U. “I didn’t care what he was going to say (laughs).”

Nia didn’t need to worry; after facing the reality of his overall health, Motivate U was a jump start Fia was ready for.

“I was being told to lose weight and to eat healthy by the doctors, nurses, everyone. They all said, ‘If you want to get back your life, you have to take these things seriously,’” he says.

And he did, and then some: Fia ended up winning the overall best award for the spring edition of Motivate U after losing 15 pounds and 23 total inches of body fat.

Emily was astonished and proud of Fia’s progress.

“He’s been one of my best patients,” she beams. “He completely turned things around, and even quit smoking at the same time. He’s stayed out of the hospital.”

It’s also led to other successes beyond weight loss. Fia is down to two medications from a total of 10, and a recent echocardiogram showed that his heart functioning has improved.

Fia’s motivated to keep going, and not just for himself, as Fia and Nia are expecting a third child. He’s also become a success story for friends and others in his community where both said friends in the Reno Polynesian community have their own struggles with health and weight loss.

To that end, the Moafanuas have encouraged friends and family to join them for another eight-week exercise program through their Motivate U gym, Sierra Strength and Speed.

“We have a pretty small Polynesian community here in town,” Fia explains. “Everyone kind of knows each other. So, when word got around that I kicked this disease, it was easier to encourage them. A lot of people I know need the same help, so as long as I stay faithful with what I’m doing and maintain my health, then my friends or my peers can be influenced.”

Though he admits he’s a work in progress and has a longer way to go, Fia is as determined as ever to continue his path toward better health.

“Where is it going? I have no idea, but there’s big potential or opportunities for me,” he says. “Just now, I’m taking it one day at a time and learning as I go along.”