Published on February 10, 2012

A 30-year Journey With Heart Disease

Genesis Cardiac Rehab makes a difference

At age 43, Dick Patterson set out for his daily 12-mile bike ride, only to return home because he had a feeling of impending doom.

Fifteen minutes later, he felt a tingle in his left hand that eventually traveled up his arm and settled in his jaw. He didn’t feel pain, only an overwhelming feeling of dread. “I had my wife drive me to the Emergency Room, and by the time I got there the feeling was across my chest like flashing neon lights,” recalls Patterson of Davenport.

It wasn’t an official heart attack but a warning. The overnight hospital stay and subsequent stress test revealed an ailing heart in need of a double coronary artery bypass graft. He underwent open-heart surgery. The year was 1981.

For Patterson, now 73, that first bypass surgery began a 30-year journey with heart disease that led to his participation in all four phases of Genesis Cardiac Rehabilitation. To this day, he exercises, socializes and learns three times a week at the Genesis Heart Institute with people bonded by a life-changing cardiac event.

As a result, he has become its greatest advocate. Although there is no cure for coronary artery disease, patients can improve their long-term survival after bypass surgery if they change or control certain risk factors.

“I’m sold on the Cardiac Rehabilitation Program at Genesis. It’s wonderful, and the staff couldn’t be any better,” Patterson says. “For the past 20 years, cardiac rehab has kept me healthy. I think I would have experienced a very different outcome without it.”

Patterson’s journey follows the Genesis program’s expansion over the years to four phases of cardiac rehabilitation: Phase 1 begins while a patient is still hospitalized. Phase 2 is for patients in the first few months after 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.

Genesis, Illini Campus in Silvis has on-site Phase 1 and Phase 2 cardiac rehabilitation. In a unique venture, it also offers the People Utilizing Life- Saving Exercise, or PULSE, program at the Two Rivers YMCA in Moline. In addition to heart patients, older adults, people at increased risk of developing heart disease and pulmonary rehab patients benefit from the medically supervised program.

Patterson was first introduced to Phase 2 and Phase 3 Cardiac Rehab in 1991 after his second open-heart surgery -- a triple heart bypass. Since then, his heart has been the recipient of a couple of stents. He also had a very minor heart attack last fall.

“My bypass lasted 19 years, and I believe it’s thanks to my participation in cardiac rehab since 1991,” Patterson says. “Our Phase 3 group feels just like family. We have a strong bond. We’re all in the same boat; we’re trying to fight the same thing. It’s just feels good to go. There’s a difference in people after they’ve been exercising 4-6 weeks -- I think it’s a new air of confidence about them.”

Patterson remembers recovering from his first bypass surgery in the early 80s, before there was an outpatient cardiac rehabilitation program to attend. He was young and active; he wasn’t overweight; and, he always had enjoyed exercise. Heart disease caught him by surprise.

“Before there was cardiac rehab, I’d do my 40-minute walk that first month after surgery and feel worried. I also went through a period of depression. Heart disease knocked the wind out of me: One day I felt great. The next day, I was a sick person. Socializing with others who have heart disease can help you get out of your depression. Cardiac Rehab helps give you confidence in your body again.”

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