Walking Back to Health, One Step at a Time
AAMC Cardiac and Pulmonary Rehabilitation Program
Errol Small took a long walk on a quiet beach in Kiawah Island, South Carolina, last summer. Four miles long, to be exact.
On the beach watching her husband become smaller and smaller in the distance was Carol Small, crying tears of joy at her husband’s amazing accomplishment.
For it was amazing. For some time, Mr. Small could not walk more than a few houses from his own home without becoming short of breath. He no longer could tend to his lush flower gardens and expansive vegetable garden, renowned in his neighborhood for their splendor, color, and fruitfulness. He had to hire a service to cut and maintain his perfectly manicured, emerald green lawn.
What made this meditative and rejuvenating walk so remarkable was just three months earlier, he had undergone triple bypass surgery at age 71.
He recalls awakening from surgery, certain it had not yet taken place. “I said to the doctor, ‘Why are we so late? Why haven’t you started the surgery yet?’ He laughed when he told me, ‘Errol, we’re finished!’”
Once home and under the care of his primary care physician, Andrew Gordon, M.D., AAMC’s chief of internal medicine; and cardiologist Jonathan Altschuler, M.D., Mr. Small faced a seemingly monumental task: cardiac rehabilitation. Like many cardiac patients, he thought his convalescence was nearly done once he returned home.
Now, he was under the care of the AAMC Cardiac and Pulmonary Rehabilitation Center exercise physiologists Carol Frazer and Terri Harding. The goal of the program is to help patients recover quickly and improve their physical and mental condition. The program includes an exercise program, nutrition counseling, and assistance modifying risk factors such as high blood pressure, smoking, high cholesterol, physical inactivity, obesity, and diabetes.
“Our center is a terrific place for rehabilitation because our team of nurses and exercise physiologists work closely with the patients to help keep them motivated,” said Barbara Furlow, M.D., medical director of the AAMC Cardiac Rehabilitation Center. “We want to get our patients well on the road to maintaining an active and healthy lifestyle.”
“The rehabilitation really is very important,” agreed Mr. Small, admitting it took a while for him to face it. “You have to take it easy and follow directions and understand that this rehab program is something that you just can’t hustle and speed up. The body tends to accept and allow you to improve each week, to gain strength and confidence in the program.”
Mr. Small, born and raised in Trinidad and Tobago in the Caribbean, and an Annapolis resident for 15 years, lives his life with passion and joy. With encouragement from his wife and friends, he took up the challenge of rehabilitation with the same intensity. He faithfully followed and completed the AAMC rehabilitation program.
“You’ve just got to do it!” he said.