Linda Cox – Cardiac Rehab Rockstars: My Cardiac Rehab Experience – The First Chapter
In 2008, at age 59, I had a heart attack. I was in the hospital for five days and my cardiac rehab began on day three while I was still recuperating. I was quite limited in what I could do not only because I was very weak from the heart attack but also because I had serious back issues so I was quite shocked when the doctor insisted I begin rehab immediately. When the exercise therapist came to my room to take me to cardiac rehab, I didn’t really feel that I was ready to participate but did what I could. I was still in a state of disbelief that this had happened to me and found myself wondering what I was doing in this room with all these old people!
I continued rehab after discharge but was so weak I could not drive. I could barely manage to walk to the end of my driveway! My husband drove me for quite awhile and had to wheel me up to the rehab room because I couldn’t walk from the hospital entrance to get there. I knew I was making progress when I could finally drive myself and make the trek to the rehab room alone. I was living in a small town in Mississippi and while the hospital served a large area and had a good reputation, the cardiac rehab room was pretty small. There was a stationary bike, a couple of recumbent bikes, an arm ergometer, a treadmill and a weight area. There was one exercise therapist and a nurse in the room which probably accommodated five or six patients at a time. A heart monitor was worn for every session and the patients could watch the readings on a screen at the front of the room while working out. I supplemented the rehab days with walking outside at home.
The program lasted about two months. The staff in this program was supportive, but contact with them was limited due to the relative short time I was there and the number of patients they were handling simultaneously. Once I was discharged, it was up to me to continue exercising on my own. My ejection fraction following my heart attack was 40% and never improved over the next year. I gradually grew stronger and was able to return to my walking, tai chi and ballroom dancing, but because of my back issues, I had regular periods of inactivity. Because the heart attack was so unexpected, I was very fearful of it happening again and never really regained complete confidence in my health. In retrospect, I believe that if I had access to the Emory Hospital program (which I attend now) back then, I might have recovered more heart function and regained some confidence in my health. For my recent, very different experience in Atlanta, stay tuned.