For patients who have recently been through a heart surgery or heart attack, the road to recovery can be daunting. Trinity Health's Cardiopulmonary Rehab department helps patients get back to their daily activities safely.
"The program is designed to benefit a person shortly after they've been discharged from the hospital," said Jeff Redekopp, Cardiopulmonary Rehab coordinator for Trinity Health. "We work on reconditioning them, building up their strength and stamina with aerobic exercise."
Redekopp explained that a primary benefit of the program is its safety. Patients in the program wear a heart monitor to measure their heart's rate and rhythm throughout their exercise session to ensure they are within appropriate ranges. All staff in the program are also trained to provide emergency care in advanced cardiac life support if there is a need. Patients in turn build up strength and stamina to return to their daily activities, and gain a new support system.
Katina Tengesdal/MDN - - Carl McDaniel, a patient in Trinity’s Cardiopulmonary Rehab program, left, works on his aerobic exercise supervised by Jeff Redekopp, Cardiopulmonary Rehab coordinator.
"Many people are able to return back to the normal and recreational activities that they were doing before," Redekopp said.
"Another benefit is that this is a good environment for providing social support, especially for elderly folks. They create strong friendships going through rehab together," he added.
Carl McDaniel, who experienced a stroke when he was having a stent replaced, agreed that the program has helped him make improvements. After his heart event in November, McDaniel was referred to the cardiopulmonary rehab program.
"I was a little bit worried and leery at first. My vision was bad, and it felt like I had tunnel vision and I couldn't see anything. That's not a good feeling, being active like I am," McDaniel said.
"I had to depend on them (rehab staff) a lot because I couldn't see anything. They helped me out. The staff is so helpful, it seems they go out of their way a lot," he added.
McDaniel said he has been able to see an increase in his strength each time he attends the program.
"When I started out, all I could do was the hand machine. Now I do the treadmill, the bike, and the rowing machine," he said.
Patients in the program participate in program phases, Redekopp explained. The first phase takes place as the patient is still in the hospital, while the second phase is where outpatient rehab begins. The third phase is a maintenance phase, where patients can continue to participate in the program as long as they choose. Patients in the third phase self-pay for the program, and rehab program staff are nearby to offer assistance or answer questions.
Trinity's Cardiopulmonary Rehab department continues to grow. It began as Cardiac Rehab over a decade ago, and the pulmonary rehab component was added in 2003. Redekopp estimates the department has worked with about 1,000 people in the past eight years, and currently sees 50 to 60 patients a day.
"We've grown tremendously, and we have more physicians referring now than we have ever had," Redekopp said.
Redekopp explained that in recent years, more focus has been put on the educational component of the program. Patients in the program learn about basic anatomy and physiology and the disease process. They are also referred to specialists for nutrition counseling and diabetes educators if more help is needed.
"Exercise alone is not going to make a significant difference if they're not going to change their lifestyle. We focus on teaching them skills so they can make healthy eating choices, and we give them counseling and instructions," Redekopp said.
"We also try to focus on emotional health, and how to identify if they are having issues with stress, anxiety or depression," he added.
Redekopp also explained that recently, there has been more focus on incorporating more resistance exercise into cardiac rehab programs, and in starting cardiac rehab earlier. Patients in Trinity's program begin with aerobic exercise and add forms of resistance exercise as they increase their strength. The program follows guidelines outlined by the American College of Sports Medicine and the American Association of Cardiovascular and Pulmonary Rehab.