Cardiopulmonary Services Help Rebuild Strength, Improve Quality of Life

This article was published in our Spring 2016 Update.

Gifford cardiopulmonary servicesAfter Richard Polarek had a heart valve replacement at the VA hospital in Boston last summer, his doctor coordinated with Gifford for his follow-up care so he could be closer to his home in Randolph Center.

For nearly two months he left his treatment sessions at Gifford’s Cardiopulmonary Services Department feeling discouraged. “Even though I challenged myself a little more each time, I didn’t feel any change,” he said. “Then, in the last month, I began to experience the benefits—not huffing, being able to walk longer and faster, but most of all not making excuses for not doing something. Now I’m hooked!”

During his multiple weekly visits he became friends with Bob Perry Sr., a pulmonary rehab patient who exercised on the bio stair machine and bicycle to treat his COPD. “I love this!” said Perry.” I can walk further and I don’t breathe as hard. When I come in now I can walk up the entrance ramp.”

Cardiac rehabilitation helps patients build strength and endurance after a heart attack, heart surgery, and other heart illness. The program includes exercise with specially-trained nurses, education, and nutrition advice. The goal is to return patients to good physical, mental, and social health and to help people better understand and adapt to their disease.

The Pulmonary rehabilitation program combines monitored exercise and education to help people with lung disease, such as COPD, to decrease symptoms and hospitalizations, increase exercise tolerance, and improve quality of life. To learn more about these programs and testing, call the Cardiopulmonary Department at Gifford at 728-2222 or ask your health care provider for a referral.

Cardiac Rehabilitation Gave Janet Kittredge Her Life Back

cardiac rehabilitation

Cardiac rehabilitation nurse Annette Petrucelli shares a smile with patient Janet Kittredge. Besides getting stronger, one of Janet’s favorite parts of cardiac rehabilitation was the good times she had with staff. “I love those ladies,” says Janet. “They became friends and I couldn’t wait to get back to see them.”

This story appeared in our
Fall 2013 Update Community Newsletter.

Janet Kittredge of Hancock struggled to breathe for two years before miserably failing a cardiac stress test and being diagnosed with a 90 percent blockage of one of the arteries in her heart.

In April, she had a stent placed in the blocked artery at Fletcher Allen Health Care. Part of her follow-up care plan was cardiac rehabilitation at her home hospital, Gifford.

Janet remembers the day she started cardiac rehabilitation vividly. She was nervous. “It had been so long since I had been able to do anything,” she says.

For Janet, a walk out to the garage meant sitting and resting before returning to the house. Carrying in groceries meant pausing between trips. “I completely stopped walking. I just stayed in and pretty much all I did was watch TV.”

So faced with the treadmills, recumbent bike and arm ergometer that make up the cardiac rehabilitation gym, Janet was worried.

A welcoming staff and consistent monitoring of her pulse and heart rate put Janet more at ease and quickly she discovered that not only could she do some exercise, the more she came, the more she could do.

“I just got so excited. It made me feel so good. I walked taller. I felt younger. I just wanted to do more and more and get stronger,” says Janet, who found herself raising the difficulty level on her workouts before even being prompted by staff.

Janet finished her program in August. The 67-year-old Stanley Tool retiree is now back to the active life she once enjoyed. She is walking a mile and a half or more a day, shopping with her granddaughters and impressing her friends with the bounce in her step.

“I have totally gotten my life back. I feel 100 percent better. I have energy. I feel like doing things.”

“I can’t say it enough how much this changed my life. If I hadn’t had this rehab, I never would have gotten myself to this point.”

Cardiac rehabilitation is a 12-week outpatient exercise, education and nutrition program for people with coronary heart disease, angina, recovering from a heart attack or heart surgery, stent placement or other heart conditions. It is offered in a special gym space at Gifford and overseen by specially trained registered nurses. To learn more, call 728-2222 or ask your health care provider for a referral.