Most people would rather avoid hospitals. But not 83-year-old Martin Sharp, a Farmington resident who heads to Botsford Hospital three times a week. He’s frustrated if he misses a single appointment.
Every time Sharp shows up at Botsford, he’s doing something to protect his heart. On Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, you’ll find him working out in the 2 West Cardiology area. He’s part of a medically supervised treatment program for people recovering from a heart condition
These workouts are key to Botsford's Cardiac Rehabilitation Program—cardiac rehab for short. Sharp, who recently had a pacemaker implanted to help control an irregular heartbeat, is one of thousands of area residents who have participated in the program since its start in I991. "I thank my doctors–cardiologist David Gowman, D.O.; internist Benjamin Rossi, D.O.; and cardiology resident Eric Greenberg, D.O. – for advising me to do cardiac rehab,” says Sharp. “ I think it could add years to my life.”
Sharp is right. Research shows cardiac rehab programs like Botsford’s speed recovery for people who have had a heart attack or have been diagnosed with a heart condition, as well as for those who’ve recently had a heart procedure or surgery—including bypass surgery, angioplasty, stenting, valve replacement, or the insertion of a pacemaker.
“Cardiac rehab can reduce your chances of future heart problems,: says Heather Glover, R.N., B.S.N., manager of Cardiopulmonary Services at Botsford. “If you’ve had a heart attack, it can help prevent another one, including one that’s fatal.” Cardiac rehab also helps patients:
At Botsford, a team of experienced and highly trained professionals oversees treatment. Among them: cardiologists, cardiology nurse specialists, exercise physiologists and specialists, and a registered dietitian.
Phase 1 starts in the hospital, in the patient’s room. At first, activity may be limited to bed rest or simply sitting in a chair. But gradually patients become more active, walking in the hospital room or in the hallway. The rehab team also counsels patients on how to exercise safely at home. Patients may complete a monitored exercise session. If so, the results will be reviewed by a doctor.
Phase 2 typically starts two to four weeks after hospital discharge. It’s conducted within Botsford Cardiology. Based on the results of an individual evaluation, patients participate in exercise sessions tailored to personal fitness levels. These sessions are closely monitored by a cardiology nurse and exercise physiologist. “We’ll let your doctor know how your heart is responding to exercise. And this feedback will shape your treatment plan,” says Glover.
Educational sessions aimed at helping control risk factors, such as high blood pressure and high cholesterol, are also offered—as well as sessions on nutrition, exercise, and stress management. “We can also help you learn about the medicines your doctor has prescribed so that you’ll be confident your’re using them correctly,” Glover adds. Phase 2 may be covered by your health insurance.
Cardiac rehab helps patients make crucial lifestyle changes.
Phase 3 is also conducted within Botsford in Cardiology. It allows the patient to continue his or her exercise program in a medically supervised setting (blood pressure and pulse continue to be monitored regularly). Phase 3 is billed on a monthly basis and is generally not reimbursed by insurance companies.
Still, local residents—like 64-year-old Lenora Williams, of Farmington Hills, whose artery has been severely narrowed by heart disease—think the sessions are in incredible resource. “They help me stay motivated and on track, “ Williams says. “ I rarely exercised before. But now it’s a way of life.” Knowing that she’s exercising in a hospital and being monitored gives Williams tremendous peace of mind. “I feel so much more secure here that if I were working out in a gym. It’s my safety net.”
Regardless of what phase they’re pursuing, participants routinely describe the rehab team as both committed and caring. “They celebrate your progress,” says Deborah Heary, 60, one of 13 siblings—most of whom, like Heary, have struggled with heart disease. “They know your personal story, and they care about you as a whole person.” Then, after pausing for a moment, this Farmington Hills resident describes Donna Binns-Gordon, R.N., M.S. Botsford cardiac rehab coordinator: “If you start to miss sessions, Donna will call to see what’s wrong. If you have a new symptom, Donna will alert your doctor. She is your advocate. Always.”
It’s not merely Binns-Gordon or other staff members who provide crucial support for those on the mend from heart problems. “We look out for each other,” emphasizes Novi resident Kate Kohn-Parrott, 59, referring to the genuine friends she has made in Cardiac Rehab at Botsford.
As a time-squeezed CEO of a local nonprofit, she thought she would simply show up for her workouts, hurry through them, and leave. Instead, the people exercising alongside her began to feel a bit like family. “I gained a sense of community I didn’t expect,” she says. “Everyone, like me has faced heart problems, and we are mutually encouraging of each other.”
Her experience is as typical as it is invaluable, says Glover. “Often, people start cardiac rehab feeling anxious or afraid,” she says. “They’ve just made it through a serious heart problem. But the connections they make here—and the support of our staff—give them a sense of control and well-being.”