At least, that’s what one cardiac rehab patient now believes. Jack Helferstay was weighing in at 364 pounds when he suffered a heart attack. After balloon angioplasty to open a blocked artery, Jack began cardiac rehabilitation, a three-day-a-week exercise and lifestyle modification program at Meritus Medical Center.
A month later, while at a cardiac rehab session, he told Lisa Seifarth, RN, he “just didn’t feel right.” After checking his blood pressure and lungs, she found nothing wrong, but made an appointment with Jack’s cardiologist for later that day. Lisa told Jack to go home and take it easy. She also told him to call her if he felt any symptoms.
Several hours later, Jack called Lisa and said he felt short of breath. She instructed him to take an aspirin, open his front door, and place all his medications on a table—at the same time, her co-worker called 911. “She kept talking to me the whole time, but I could feel my heart racing,” said Jack.
Lifestyle Changes Were Lifesavers
Because of the damage to his heart during the first heart attack, Jack experienced an arrhythmia, while his lungs filled with fluid. He survived “coding” in the ambulance, received a pacemaker, and remained in critical care on a ventilator. Lisa and fellow nurses from cardiac rehab called every hour to check on his condition. Three days later, Jack awoke and asked for food.
“I knew it could have been fatal if it wasn’t for the regimen I followed in cardiac rehab,” said Jack. “The education, advice, and structure all helped me change my way of life. If I don’t think things are helping me, I stop doing them. But the classes, new diet, and exercise all began to make sense to me.”
Now, after finishing cardiac rehabilitation, Jack is weighing in at 284 pounds, an impressive 80 pounds lighter than he was pre-heart attack. He says, “The stuff they tell us our whole lives—exercise and a healthy diet—it actually works.”
So, what is cardiac rehab?
Cardiac rehab is a program for patients who are recovering from a heart attack, coronary bypass surgery, or balloon angioplasty. It combines monitored exercise with educational classes focused on encouraging healthy lifestyle choices. Meritus Health’s cardiac rehabilitation program is nationally certified by the American Association of Cardiovascular and Pulmonary Rehabilitation. If you’d like more information, call 301.790.8940.
By Kayla Murphy and Anne Gill