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Memorial Hospital’s Cardiac Rehab: Triumphant Over Heart Disease

By Jeff Russell

February is National Heart Month. The Cardiac Rehab Program at Memorial Hospital in Towanda is all about helping people recover from a cardiac event and to help them return to a safe and enjoyable life-style.

The Cardiac Rehab Program is an individually designed, medically supervised program for any patient who is recovering from a heart attack, heart surgery, heart valve replacement, angioplasty, angina, coronary bypass surgery or cardiovascular disease. Generally, any patient who has experienced a cardiac event can benefit from cardiac rehabilitation.

“Heart disease is very frightening and dangerous. We want to help people regain their strength and confidence following a cardiac event,” says Diane Broschart, RN, BC, CCRN, Certified Cardiac Rehab Specialist.

“Our Cardiac Rehab Program offers monitored exercise, diet counseling and individualized treatment plans to help participants achieve their personal health goals,” she said.

Memorial Hospital’s Cardiac Rehab is staffed by certified, registered nurses. These nurses have had extensive education and background in critical care and cardiac rehabilitation.

The program is designed to conquer the physiological and psychological effects of cardiac illness, reduce the risk of sudden death or relapse, control cardiac symptoms, stabilize and/or improve the patient’s condition and enhance the patient’s quality of life.

Here are some personal stories from people who have experienced heart disease and have overcome many obstacles to get back to full health and strength. “We invite others to learn from these experiences,” says Broschart. “It’s all about returning to an active, fulfilling life-style.”

Gary Raupers

Gary Raupers

Gary Raupers, 70, of Hornbrook and his wife, Wendy, have been married for 27 years. Together they have six children, seven grandchildren and three great-grand children.

Gary is an expert mason, having worked his craft all over the United States, especially in Florida and Pennsylvania. He says he comes by his trade quite naturally as the skill of masonry has been passed down through generations in his family.

At the age of seven, Gary suffered from rheumatic fever which likely played a role in his eventual encounters with cardiac problems. A heart murmur was diagnosed early in his life and doctors warned him that he could be at risk for heart disease.

Nine years ago, he began to notice some shortness of breath. “I’ve always enjoyed bike racing. I began to experience unusual shortness of breath especially on the uphill sections of my biking course,” Gary says. Swimming at the lake also proved to aggravate his shortness of breath.

Doctors decided that surgery for a stent, a small, expandable tube used for inserting in a blocked vessel was necessary. They also advised Gary that he would likely be a candidate for a heart valve replacement within a few years.

Sure enough, Gary began to experience shortness of breath again during the spring months of 2012. “My wife tricked me into seeing the doctors including a thorough heart checkup. She probably saved my life,” Gary said thoughtfully. In June 2012 Gary had open heart surgery for an aortic valve replacement.

Recovery was long and challenging. Following surgery, Gary found it difficult to sit comfortably in a chair; especially as a spectator at his son’s baseball games. “I discovered that a hard surface chair with a straight back was the most comfortable.”

To help in his recovery, Gary began Cardiac Rehab at Memorial Hospital a few weeks after his surgery. He is pleased with his recovery. “The nurses at the Cardiac Rehab center are very supportive. They have a cardiac monitoring system that keeps track of heart rate. I always felt safe and supported during the exercise routines,” he said.

Gary has graduated from Cardiac Rehab with renewed confidence and physical endurance. “I am no longer slowed down by shortness of breath. I am back to all of my activities and have enough masonry work lined up to keep me busy for a very long time,” he says.

“If anyone has ever experienced a cardiac event, they should definitely consider joining the Cardiac Rehab program at Memorial Hospital. There is no better way to get back on your feet,” Gary said.

Geraldine Kellerman

Geraldine Kellerman

Geraldine Kellerman and her husband, Robert, have been married for 59 years. They’ve raised five children. Their family has grown to include 13 grandchildren and five great-grandchildren. Geraldine served as secretary to the superintendent at the Middlesex Borough public school in New Jersey. They moved to the Camptown area following their retirements in 1995.

Geraldine’s first encounter with a cardiac problem was in 1998. “At that time, I remember I was beginning to notice that I would sort of run out of breath and get fatigued rather easily,” she said. “I’ve always had a heart murmur, but it seemed to be more pronounced.”

Doctors identified areas of blockage in Geraldine’s coronary arteries. Her aortic valve needed to be replaced. Following that surgery, she was aided in her recovery by enrolling in the Cardiac Rehab program at Memorial Hospital in Towanda. She recovered and enjoyed an active lifestyle of gardening, traveling and spending time with her family.

However, in the spring of 2012, her cardiac symptoms returned. “I just was not feeling right. I wasn’t myself. I noticed the shortness of breath issue returning during my everyday activities,” she recalled. “Then all of a sudden I felt like I could not breathe.”

Geraldine’s husband quickly called 911 for help. It was Valentine’s Day and the region was under several inches of snow which complicated the ability of the paramedics to get to the Kellerman’s home. “Everyone was so helpful,” says Geraldine. “A snowplow cleared the way and the ambulance was able to safely transport me to the hospital. We live in a wonderful community,” she said.

Skillful surgeons performed angioplasty to repair a blood vessel by inserting a balloon-tipped catheter to unclog the blocked area. Once again, to support Geraldine’s full recovery, doctors suggested she enroll in the Cardiac Rehab program.

“The exercise programs at Cardiac Rehab helped me regain my strength and confidence,” Geraldine says. “The nurses monitored my progress and offered delightful encouragement. They are so very kind and caring. Now I feel great and back to my old self again.”

“I would absolutely recommend the Cardiac Rehab program to anyone who needs some help after having a cardiac problem,” she says. “It is a wonderful environment of healing and seeing other people getting better and stronger along with you. I appreciate everything they have done for me.”

Geraldine and her husband are looking forward to making travel plans and enjoying every day they have together.

Thomas Delovich

Thomas Delovich

Thomas Delovich, 70, of Lopez and his wife Elaine are the very proud parents of two grown children. Their daughter is a massage therapist working with cancer patients in New York City. Their son is an equine enthusiast participating in professional show jumping along with the competitive showing of horses.

Tom loves the outdoors and long walks in the country. “I began to notice that I would get short of breath when walking up a hill,” he recalls. “I’ve enjoyed really good health so I didn’t think too much of it at first.”

Tom sort of dismissed his symptom as a natural part of getting a little older. But his shortness of breath continued to be more noticeable. “I just knew something was not right. Being short of breath was just not normal for me,” he said.

In the spring of 2012, his doctor prescribed a stress test to help determine what was going on. Sure enough, medical testing results indicated that Tom had blockages in his heart vessels. Not just one, but four dangerously clogged areas. Surgery to bypass the blockages followed.

Tom was in the hospital for several days and was discharged with the recommendation to enroll in the Cardiac Rehab program at Memorial Hospital in Towanda. “After the surgery, I just was not feeling like myself,” he said. “The best way to describe it was that I had lost the spark of life, I just wasn’t feeling well. Probably, for me, it was as much of a psychological obstacle as it was the physical weakness.”

“When I entered the Cardiac Rehab program I was walking about a mile and a half but it took me about an hour and a half to do it,” he said. “I knew I could do much better than that.”

Turns out, Cardiac Rehab was just what Tom needed. “The nurses are so supportive and knowledgeable. There are many choices of exercise equipment. The focus was more on duration of exercise time rather than intensity. That worked very well for me,” he said.

“My confidence began to increase. I could push myself a little more each week at rehab knowing that my heart rate was always being monitored. The nurses encouraged me and provided an optimistic atmosphere. It was just what I needed,” he said.

“Now I can get out and be active with confidence. I can walk that mile and a half in under 30 minutes. That is a huge improvement from where I started. It was well worth the time and travel involved to participate in the Cardiac Rehab program,” Tom said.

Tom has reached and exceeded his recovery goals. “Now I look forward to continuing on with a good and healthy life,” he declared. That “spark” has noticeably returned to Tom’s life.

Heart Attack Warning Signs

According to the American Heart Association, some heart attacks are sudden and intense; the "movie heart attack," where no one doubts what's happening. But most heart attacks start slowly, with mild pain or discomfort. Often people affected aren't sure what's wrong and wait too long before getting help.

  • Chest discomfort. Most heart attacks involve discomfort in the center of the chest that lasts more than a few minutes, or that goes away and comes back. It can feel like uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness or pain.
  • Discomfort in other areas of the upper body. Symptoms can include pain or discomfort in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw or stomach.
  • Shortness of breath with or without chest discomfort.
  • Other signs may include breaking out in a cold sweat, nausea or lightheadedness.

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Press Release
February 8, 2013
Contact: Jeff Russell 268-2444