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Memorial Hospital's Cardiac Rehab:
Helping People Reclaim Optimal Heart Health

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 support 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.

Patient benefits and goals of Cardiac Rehabilitation include:
  • One-on-one individualized rehabilitation plan supported by a registered nurse
  • Increased understanding of heart disease, its causes, management and prevention
  • Heart disease risk factor education and modification techniques
  • Learn how proper diet and exercise can help to lower blood cholesterol
  • Monitored exercise choices to enhance improved heart efficiency
  • Enhance quality of life through increased stamina and self-confidence

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

Donald Smith
Donald Smith

Donald Smith, 70, and his wife Jacquelyn have been married for 46 years. They have two grown children and two grandchildren. Donald grew up in Bradford County, is a graduate of the Towanda High School and enjoyed a long Navy career as an aircraft mechanic.

Donald and Jacquelyn enjoy spending their summers at Lake Bonin, Orwell Hill, PA and winters in Lakewood, California. Donald enjoys an active lifestyle including 5-mile walks through the countryside.

Donald's Cardiac Symptoms and Surgery
  • Gradual increased shortness of breath when walking
  • General burning sensation - like when it's cold outside
  • Dull pain just below his ribcage

It was May 2013 when Donald decided to tell his wife that he needed to go to the hospital. Doctors asked lots of questions. Donald's blood pressure was very high. Tests were ordered. A ninety-five percent blockage was discovered in his right coronary artery.

While in surgery, doctors inserted a tiny, flexible plastic tube called a catheter through an artery in Donald's arm making way for inserting a stent to permanently hold open the blocked artery area and keep it from closing again.

"I was only in the hospital for a couple of days," Donald explained. "I was up walking around after surgery. I almost immediately noticed that my shortness of breath was gone."


Donald's doctors recommend cardiac rehab to help him regain strength and confidence. "I have to admit that I was skeptical. I was not convinced that cardiac rehab would help me," Donald said. In spite of his concerns, Donald decided to give cardiac rehab at Memorial Hospital in Towanda a try.

From the very first visit Donald was happy with his decision. "It was reassuring to know that my exercise was always monitored. There were several different exercise equipment options. I enjoyed talking to others and we encouraged each other in the process," Donald said.

During his weeks of cardiac rehab treatment, Donald cut down on the amount of sweets in his diet, ate more vegetables, increased his physical activity, trimmed away 12 pounds and his cholesterol levels returned to the normal range.

"Diane, my nurse coach, was always calm, cheerful and reassuring. She is an excellent mentor and teacher. She is patient and kind. Just what I needed to help my health to improve," Donald said.

Words of Wisdom

"I should have talked to my wife sooner about how I was feeling. I tried to ignore my symptoms. I just kept thinking I would get better. You need to listen to your body and take care of yourself. Tell someone how you are feeling," Donald advised.

Deb Barrett
Deb Barrett

Deb Barrett is a survivor. At the age of 49 she was diagnosed with breast cancer and beat the disease. In the spring of 2013 she was diagnosed with a blocked coronary artery and had surgery to insert a life-saving stent to open the blocked area. Deb is looking forward to celebrating her 70th birthday next month.

Deb has two grown children, a son and daughter as well as three grandchildren. She resides in the Rome area having retired from a career as an educator, most recently serving in the library at a Connecticut State University.

Deb's Cardiac Symptoms and Surgery
  • Initially concerned with diabetes not under control
  • Shortness of breath after climbing a set of stairs or walking up a hill
  • A brief "grabbing" sensation in her chest when lying in bed

Deb remembers carrying a bucket of water up a hill and by the time she made the short walk back down the hill something happened. "I felt dizzy and lightheaded. I thought I might collapse. It took about five minutes before I could function again," she remembers.

She knew something was not right, but like most of us, she had things she had to do. She waited until the next morning and took herself to the emergency room. Doctors discovered a severe blockage in her left coronary artery and performed surgery to insert the artery-expanding stent.


Upon the recommendation of her doctors, Deb enrolled in Memorial Hospital's cardiac rehab program. "I chose Memorial Hospital because it was closer to home," she said. "Once I started the program, I realized that I was not in good physical shape at all," Deb said.

Deb quickly adapted to the exercise component of the program and has enjoyed significant improvements. "In the beginning, a three-minute workout on one of the exercise machines was a big effort," she recalled. "Now I can comfortably complete six minutes per machine on six different machines."

Deb is thankful to report that she no longer endures shortness of breath and she is symptom free. "My legs are stronger and I have more energy."

Words of Wisdom

"If you think something is wrong with your health, do not wait, get checked out right away," Deb said. She knows now that waiting until the next day was not a good idea. Deb is thankful that she did not have a heart attack. "Follow your doctor's advice and keep your appointments," she advises.

Robert Selleck

Robert Selleck, 67, is a retired dairy farmer from his Ala-bob Dairy Farm, Mountain Lake. He and his wife, Edith, have been married for 42 years and have two grown sons.

Robert's Cardiac Symptoms and Surgery
  • Feeling "just a little bit tired"
  • Unexplained spontaneous vomiting after physical excursion
  • A tingling sensation on his chest… "like an itch"

In July 2013, Robert and his brother were working together on the farm. A flat tire needed to be repaired. Robert took the tire to a local shop and returned to the farm with it. "I carried the tire from the truck," Robert says. "That's when I suddenly vomited watery fluid and felt the tingling sensation. My wife took me to Memorial Hospital's emergency room where the doctor immediately made arrangements for me to be transferred to Guthrie by helicopter," Robert says.

When Robert arrived at Guthrie, he was immediately taken to surgery. One of his main heart arteries was completely blocked. Doctors inserted a stent to permanently open the blocked area. Later a doctor would tell the Sellecks that he had what they would often refer to as the "widow maker" heart disease.


Thankfully recovery for Robert was uncomplicated and speedy. "It was like I never missed a beat," he said with a broad smile. One of his nurses suggested that he had an angel on his shoulder. "I said no, I have my wife. She is my foundation. She is my angel!"

Doctors recommend cardiac rehab. "I met so many terrific people during my cardiac rehab experience. Diane, my nurse, was always helpful and attentive. I learned how to use many different pieces of exercise equipment which I had never done before," he said.

"We are big Penn State football fans. Now, when we spend the night in a hotel, I take advantage of the exercise room and equipment. That's quite a big change for me," he said grinning.

Words of Wisdom
"I have already recommended the cardiac rehab program to others. I tell people that they need to take care of themselves," he says.
Edith chimed in, "I could see how the cardiac rehab program improved Robert's confidence and helped keep him motivated."
"I think a positive attitude goes a long way," says Robert. "That, along with following the doctor's recommendations, is the best advice I can offer."

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.

Here are signs that can mean a heart attack is happening from the American Heart Association. See more information at
  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/vomiting or lightheadedness.

    ...back to "In the News"

Press Release
February 13, 2014
Contact: Jeff Russell 268-2444