Published on January 11, 2013

Honoring His Cardiac Rehab Team

Patient presents special flag to Genesis Heart Institute

For years, Jack Clark has given the special people in his life a flag that has flown over the U.S. Capitol in their honor.

Each of his six children and 11 grandchildren has one, and a few of his hunting and fishing buddies, too. In order to present such a gift, Mr. Clark has followed a time-intensive process that has involved filling out paperwork; garnering the approval of a U.S. Senator from Iowa; and, waiting about two months to receive an “impressive” flag and certificate stating it was flown in the honoree’s name on Capitol grounds in Washington, D.C.

To him, the flag signifies the utmost in respect, which is exactly why he had one flown to honor the Cardiac Rehabilitation staff at the Genesis Heart Institute.

Jack Clark and his wife of 61 years, Mary Ann, say they will always be grateful to the nurses and exercise specialists who helped Jack recover physically and emotionally from open-heart surgery in 2005 and, more recently, after he had a stent placed in his heart.

With the endorsement of U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, the flag was flown a day last November over the U.S. Capitol in the name of Genesis Cardiac Rehab. Since its arrival at the Genesis Heart Institute, the flag has been given a permanent spot in the Cardiac Rehab gym.

It hangs as a thank you to all the caregivers who helped Mr. Clark on the road to recovery -- a sometimes-difficult road that included a bout with depression after his open-heart surgery and lifetime adjustments to diet and exercise.

With their advice, education and supportive presence, he recovered from bypass surgery, and again, after a Cardiac Catheterization procedure.

“I’ve been in Phase 2 Cardiac Rehab twice at Genesis, and I’ve never regretted it,” says Clark, 84, of Davenport. “I can’t say enough about the staff there. They deserve all the credit in the world. You couldn’t ask for a nicer group of people to help you recover from something as difficult as a heart procedure.”

Unexpected heart disease

An angiogram showing blockages in his heart led him in 2005 to have triplebypass surgery at Genesis Medical Center, Davenport.

“I recall having the feeling that most heart patients have: ‘This can’t be happening to me.’ I was in such a deep depression after my surgery. I had wonderful nurses who tried to make me feel better. I remember one nurse in particular who tried to cheer me up and said, ‘Today, we’re going to have a good day.’ “

After he recovered from surgery, Mr. Clark did what a majority of Americans do not: He enrolled in a cardiac rehabilitation class.

Cardiac rehabilitation is a professionally supervised program to help people recover from heart attacks, heart surgery and procedures like stenting and angioplasty.

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 posthospitalization, 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.

The Genesis, Illini Campus in Silvis has on-site Phase 1 and Phase 2 cardiac rehabilitation, too. It also offers the PULSE (People Utilizing Life-Saving Exercise) at the Two Rivers YMCA in Moline.

The benefits of cardiac rehab

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 the prevention of future cardiac events.

“We have become so efficient at bypass surgery and angioplasties that sometimes people go home from the hospital and feel they don’t have to make hearthealthy lifestyle changes,” says Karen Doy, interim manager of Cardiac Rehabilitation. “They don’t understand they have a chronic disease and that enrolling in cardiac rehabilitation can improve their own longer-term outcomes.”

Cardiac rehabilitation also offers a network of support to heart patients. The shared experience of going through a cardiac event bonds them.

After his heart surgery, Jack Clark remembers dealing with depression and worrying about whether he had the stamina for exercise in Phase 2 rehabilitation. He was relieved to discover he could go at his own pace.

He also felt more at ease knowing the exercise was supervised. Professionals were there to monitor him if he had blood pressure issues or chest discomfort.

“They only give you the exercises they know you can handle,” he says. “They ask you, ‘Can you do this? Do you want to do this?’ Everyone has their unique aches and pains. They give everyone individualized care.

“They got me back on my feet quicker. They helped me overcome my depression. They even laughed at my jokes.”

After his first stint in Phase 2, he would occasionally come back to visit his “friends” in Cardiac Rehab. During the second time in rehab, he decided the flag would be a special way to honor staff and show his appreciation.

“I wanted to do something special for these gals, and I wanted it to last a while,” he concludes.

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