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Cardiac Rehabilitation: The Journey Toward Recovery

Posted Feb 01 2013 6:00am

The day begins at 7:15 a.m. Patients stride into Cardiac Rehabilitation at Northwest Hospital . Smiling, they great each other with “ good mornings” and “ hey, how are ya’s.” The easy familiarity in the task at hand is evident. Hang up coats, grab your monitor bag, hook up the telemetry, get a blood pressure and get to work. Music is playing in the background, but it is usually drowned out by the typical conversations between patients and staff.

These days it is all about the Ravens. The staff and patients work together towards a common goal. Get better, do more, feel stronger. These are the most common. The camaraderie in these small social groups crosses lines of gender, race and social barriers; still, each patient is here for the same reason. The support and concern between patients and staff is truly the unifying breadth of any Cardiac Rehab program.

Lisa Gerberg

Lisa Gerberg

It is the middle of the morning and the new patient walks in. You can tell they are intimidated by the recovery process. The pack of papers in hand, the weary look at the equipment, and the guarded posture all show signs of fright and intimidation. It always impresses me the unconditional support a seasoned cardiac rehab member has for the “newbie.” They don’t know each other, but they share one thing. Yes, of course it was the heart event that brought them here, but it is the unspoken word that I am talking about: fear. One or two patients will approach. “Don’t worry the staff is great and they will take care of you.” “ You will feel better soon”. Slowly, they relax.

When you have a heart attack, the treatment is swift and lacks time to process in some cases. Unlike a diagnosis of cancer , cardiac disease needs immediate attention, or the result can be disastrous or even fatal. When you enter the emergency room, tests are run and decisions are made in a split second. Off to the cath lab you will go in minutes, with people surrounding you the entire time. Depending on the results, you are back home in two to three days with a stent, or five to seven days after cardiac surgery, seemingly alone.

When patients finally enter the cardiac rehabilitation program at Northwest Hospital, the healing really begins. Many patients sit in my office and feel that they have safe place to say the words, “ I am so afraid, will this happen again?” or “I almost lost my husband, how can I manage without him?” Most of the younger patients are faced with lifestyle changes and their own mortality way before the accepted age. We provide education on all the usual topics, diet, exercise, stress reduction, depression.

However, the one thing that comes from heart and soul of the staff is the confidence that their life is not over, it’s just beginning. Slow, methodical steps back on the pathway to health are traveled hand in hand. All our patients understand this, and each one is ready to lead the other back. Each patient has been at the starting line and each patient will finish stronger, happier, and healthier. At Northwest Cardiac Rehabilitation, we celebrate each milestone together because we know that every step of the journey is one step closer to rejoining life.

(The staff consists of: Lisa Gerberg, R.N., program manager; Lisa Gonder, R.N., B.S.N. clinical nurse; Sara Ensey, R.N., B.S.N., nurse navigator; Tim Hendren, CSCS exercise specialist; Mary Maslow, ACSM exercise specialist; Joan Todd R.D., L.D.N, CSG, clinical dietitian;  Ronald Sher, M.D. , medical director.)

-Written by Lisa Gerberg, Program Manager, Cardiac Rehabilitation Northwest Hospital, Maryland Association of Cardiac and Pulmonary Rehabilitation Association

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