Saving Lives And Changing Lifestyles
Genesis Cardiac Rehab programs put patients on road to recovery
Like many people, Geri Fentress of Eldridge had become too relaxed and infrequent about her workouts.
That attitude about exercise changed last year, however, when at age 53, she had open-heart surgery to repair her mitral valve. Her heart condition came as a lifechanging surprise.
After she recovered from the shock and surgery, she did what a majority of Americans with heart ailments do not: She enrolled in a cardiac rehabilitation class.
Genesis Registered Nurses Sue Osborn, left, and
Judy Cleaver, right, chat about heart health with
Geri Fentress at the Cardiac Rehab gym at the
Genesis Heart Institute.
Cardiac rehabilitation is a professionally supervised program to help people recover from heart attacks, heart surgery and procedures like stenting and angioplasty.
“It was a really enjoyable experience; the nurses and staff were great,” said Fentress of the Phase 2 class at the Genesis Heart Institute, Davenport. “The workout pushes you, but you have the reassurance of knowing your exercise is closely monitored. Your blood pressure is checked a couple of times during 45 minutes of warm-up, exercise with cardio machines and weights, and a cooldown. After that, we rest our hearts during a 15-minute informational class, and our blood pressure is taken for the final time.
“You start out slow, and then gradually -- and safely -- increase your exercise level. As you work harder and do more, you know you’re not going to hurt yourself. You’re all there because you have a heart problem, and you’re rooting for each other.”
Geri Fentress has graduated from Cardiac Rehab, but thanks to the new skills she learned, has continued her re-commitment to a lifestyle of exercise, healthy eating and low sodium intake. “I’ve lost about 30 pounds and am trying to eat more fruits and vegetables. I watch my portions,” she said.
Across the nation, only about one-fifth of heart patients participate in cardiac rehabilitation, says the American Heart Association. That’s even though years of research have shown it’s critical to patients’ recovery and prevention of future cardiac events.
Genesis Heart Institute professionals stress the benefits of rehabilitation for anyone who has undergone a cardiac procedure. Patients from Genesis’ Davenport and Illini campuses made more than 50,000 visits to cardiac rehab in 2010.
“Many patients think they are ‘fixed’ after they have bypass surgery or stents. They don’t understand they have a chronic disease and that enrolling in cardiac rehabilitation can improve their own longer-term outcomes,” said Karen Doy, Supervisor of Cardiac Rehabilitation. “We have become so efficient at angioplasties and placing stents that sometimes people go home from the hospital and feel they don’t have to make heart-healthy lifestyle changes.
“In cardiac rehab, we help them understand that heart disease is a chronic condition and support them as they work through the process.”
The program at Genesis, Davenport has four phases of rehabilitation: Phase 1 begins while a patient is still hospitalized. Phase 2 is for patients in the first few months of post-hospitalization, and Phase 3 is a maintenance program of educational classes, exercise and heart monitoring. Phase 4 patients exercise with Phase 3 patients but are not monitored as intensely.
Heart health strikes close to home for PULSE
Program Supervisor Steve Hernandez. Here
he checks the blood pressure of his father,
Stephen Hernandez, as he works out with
others at the Two Rivers YMCA in Moline.
Genesis, Illini Campus in Silvis has on-site Phase 1 and Phase 2 cardiac rehabilitation, too. In a unique venture, it also offers the People Utilizing Life-Saving Exercise, or PULSE, program at the Two Rivers YMCA in Moline. The PULSE program isn’t just for heart patients. Older adults, women and people at increased risk of developing heart disease and also pulmonary rehab patients can benefit from the medically supervised program.
“The mission is prevention -- keeping people well and out of the hospital,” said Shari Gall, R.N., Illini Campus’ Manager of Cardiac Rehabilitation.
A long-term commitment
Say “rehab,” and many people envision weak heart patients being pushed to run on a treadmill. Exercise is crucial, but they don’t need to be uncomfortable. The key is finding something they enjoy doing and are willing to do long-term.
For example, Geri Fentress looks forward to the approach of milder weather; she enjoys a brisk walk outdoors for her exercise.
Cardiac rehabilitation also offers a network of support to heart patients. The shared experience of going through a cardiac event bonds them.
“The camaraderie benefits them, and they share stories about how they coped with whatever cardiac event they had,” Gall says. “Some of our patients will joke, ‘We exercise our mouths more than we exercise our bodies,’ but that interaction is very key to their success.”
Steve Hernandez, Supervisor of the Illini PULSE program, agrees. “The socialization is very important,” he said. “It’s like a buddy system: They feel accountable to come and exercise, as opposed to trying to do it alone at home where there are too many other distractions.”
New heart patients embarking on a lifestyle of exercise may be dealing with depression or feel afraid to exercise after their cardiac event. “They feel more at ease knowing we’re here to support them if they have blood pressure issues or are having any chest discomfort, for example,” Hernandez says. “We even will be in contact with their physician if needed.”