Group puts focus on healthy heart

Published 9:59 am Wednesday, October 21, 2015

People might go through a traumatic experience like a heart attack before taking their health seriously and change living habits. After receiving medical care, patients can find strength in others going through the same procedure they have.

A group of patients who’ve survived cardiac arrest or pulmonary problems meet Monday and Wednesday mornings at Merit Health River Region Medical Center for cardiac rehab and exercise their hearts to safely get their hearts in shape.

“It’s a program designed for patients who’ve had heart attacks, stints or any kind of heart surgery. Heart surgery could be valve repairs, bypass surgery or a heart transplant,” said Kelle Vinzant, a registered nurse and cardiac rehab coordinator.

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Patients are progressed based on their individual health, however, they do wear monitors so Vinzant can make sure those who have stints or had a heart attack don’t experience arrhythmias or other problems.

“We check their blood pressure, help them monitor that, help them work on their diet. Any kind of education they need heart related is what we do,” Vinzant said.

Patients get an opportunity to exercise traditional pieces of equipment such as ellipticals and recumbent bikes. Other exercise machines include a NuStep, which is a machine where patients sit down and work their upper and lower body and an arm crank, which helps rebuild the chest muscles after surgery.

Some even meet at Merit Health around 6 a.m. to go walking around the hospital.

“They have a track marked on the outside of the hospital where I can do my walking. We walk three miles in the morning then we come inside and workout for an hour or so. I’ve been coming since 2008, and reckon I’ll never quit coming,” said Robert Sullivan, who had heart bypass surgery.

Rosie Robinson is one of the rehab patients and found out she had heart problems back in May 2012.

“I became short of breath, couldn’t breathe, sweat popping off me, and I went to a heart specialist,” Robinson said.

The specialist recommended she get a stent placed in heart, which helps open the blockage in her heart. This past May she had open-heart surgery after having a heart attack.

Robinson has been to cardiac rehab five times and notices the difference on days she does and doesn’t attend.

“I feel good. Now I can walk, I can breathe good, and I can clean my house,” Robinson.

Henry Hunter climbed Louisiana Circle when he noticed he was short of breath. A doctor told him he had 90 percent blockage in his heart. He also had a stent put in and was told to do therapy.

“I really didn’t feel like I needed it, but I enjoy being around these crazy guys up here,” Hunter said.

The cardiac rehab patients enjoy each other’s company and always find time to make jokes to get through their morning.

“Kelle, she’s a pretty good nurse. She’ll get you straight,” Hunter said. “We’re a happy-go-lucky family up here.”