Cardiac Rehab Celebrates 10 Years
James Witt recently visited Anne Arundel Medical Center for the 500th time since 1992. It's not that he's in bad health. In fact, he's in much better health than he was eight years ago when he was referred to the hospital's cardiac rehabilitation program after suffering a massive heart attack.
AAMC's cardiac rehabilitation program, which recently celebrated its 10th year anniversary, uses education, exercise and support to help cardiac patients learn to live with their disease. Primary care physicians and cardiologists refer patients. Patients move through a program that involves attending a three-times-weekly monitored exercise and education class, said Melanie Crowder, R.N., coordinator of the rehab program. Once the three-month program ends, patients are welcome to join the maintenance program that helped Witt. Maintenance patients can come as often as they want for a nominal fee, said Crowder.
Witt, a 63-year old engineering consultant, was present last fall when scores of cardiac rehab patients gathered for a reception and awards ceremony to celebrate the 10th anniversary. Several patients, including Witt, received awards from the staff. Witt distinguished himself as the patient who had come on his own to exercise more than anyone elsemore than 500 times. Witt said, "After I was referred to the rehab program, I changed my lifestyle, lost weight and started exercising regularly. I can't say enough good things about the people and the program."
University of Maryland education policy and politics professor Betty Malen has been a member of cardiac rehab since December of 1996. She had suffered a massive heart attack the previous August and undergone quadruple bypass before she was referred to the program. She said, "After the heart attack and surgery, I was left with a very strained heart. My only option was to increase the efficiency of what I had left."
At the reception, she addressed the staff on behalf of the patients. She said later, "The staff was holding the reception for us, but some of us asked ourselves, 'Who is going to pay tribute to the staff?' We wouldn't be alive without them," she said.
She continued, "After a heart attack, you can either live scared, or confront your fears and see if there is a way to manage and have a meaningful life. The staff is there to help you. They are masterfuland we aren't an easy group to deal withyet they reach out to us on emotional, physical and intellectual levels."
"When I first started rehab, I couldn't walk from my front door to my car without stopping to rest. Rehab gave me back my life. I made changes in my diet. I quit smoking and started exercising. And I learned to manage all my medications. Now I walk 1.5 miles a day on the treadmill."
Dr. Rodney Brimhall, the cardiac rehabilitation program's medical director, who created the program in 1989, said, "The cardiac program has exceeded all that we had envisioned in the beginning. In addition to exercise, there are education classes that meet three times a week, the monthly 'Healthy Hearts' lecture and the bi-monthly cardiac support group. We continue to hear positive feedback from patients." The space originally allotted for the program has more than doubled and the number of patients has exceeded 1,000.
The rehab program operates from 7 a.m. until 7 p.m. Monday, Wednesday and Friday, and opens 30 minutes earlier on Tuesday and Thursday for the early bird exercisers.
Crowder said, "When a new patient calls with a referral, we set up an interview, do an assessment, devise a program that includes education needs, risk factors and goals. Most goals involve losing weight, quitting smoking, reducing cholesterol and increasing exercisesmall goals to start with and not overwhelm. We help with that building process and we build on success. Once patients begin to meet others, the support grows quickly. Many times other patients answer a new patient's questions. They learn from each other. And they have lots of fun, once they get involved."