Why the Cardiologist Recommended the Rehab Facility
I thought I was in good shape before my 'heart events'. I was playing hockey twice a week, skiing, biking, even walking. But, two years ago starting at 2pm while sitting in my car, I had the first of 15 heart attacks in nine hours.
I was in the heart institute for a week and lost the first 15 pounds of 41 that I eventually lost. In my last post, I talked about what the cardiologist told me (and my wife, who was there as my advocate) as we left the hospital. The staff there had set up several appointments for me for follow-on and continuing ancillary care. One of these was at the rehabilitation facility (hereafter called rehab). I wasn't sure that I needed/wanted to do that; it was for 'sick' people, or so I thought. I read about how important it was to get some exercise and to start by walking up and down in front of your house and gradually extend your distance. I could do that.
So, I tried to walk to the end of the block. I quickly developed chest pains. And, like most other first time heart patients, I 'knew' that I could die from that. So, I didn't exercise.
My first appointment at the rehab facility was in a month. At my first appointment, they had me come in early to get the background, etc. There was a nurse and a physio in attendance and I explained what had happened and why I had not done any exercise for the past month. They wired me up and told me to walk around the track while they watched on their computer monitor. They said "Come in as soon as you have pains". I said "I'll see you in five". So I walked out on the track and developed pains in less than one circuit. When I went to see the monitor, they could not see anything wrong and said that was normal and not to worry about it. They did show me a confidence booster. "Put both arms straight up and, if there is a change in your chest pain, then it's not cardio". So, with that relief I went back onto the track and walked confidently for 45 minutes. And, I never looked backed.
The program offered at our heart institute is free for survivors and consists of sixteen sessions, two per week. They have a short, oval track and the regular gym machines (treadmills, bikes, elliptical trainers) and you are free to use whichever of these you want. There are 16 people in each session and you are free to use all of the facilities as you wish. There are medical personnel there at all exercise times and they take your vitals before each session.
After getting my confidence and learning what I could do, I eventually built up to my current level. It's been two years and I walk or bike for an hour per day and carefully watch all of the other risk factors (diet, stress, polluted air, meds, depression). Some say that I'm anal about how closely I monitor these things. I even photograph every meal so as to not miss any that I need to record for the next time. My blood pressure (both arms) and pulse is amazingly low (but safely so). Even the cardiologist (also a survivor) is envious. I have not returned to hockey but I began skating and skiing again this winter and they both feel fine. I still make the same mistakes in those sports as before.
Is rehab important ? In my opinion, absolutely. Without that confidence boost, and the associated exercise value, I definitely would not feel as good as I do.